The God Who Calls

calling-of-st-matthew.jpegA Sermon from Exodus 3.10-12 Preached on October 27, 2007 at First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga, Tennessee

Introduction to the Reading

We return to Exodus Chapter three. And today we consider the Call of Moses and how that call relates to our own.

Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 10 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 11 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” 12

Introduction to the Sermon

One of my favorite stories about understanding a calling comes from the story about a Pentecostal minister in South Louisiana who needed an emergency heart surgery. The preacher, a fiery middle-aged evangelist who combed the swampy campgrounds of South Louisiana stirring up towns and calling for repentance, was suddenly halted in his tracks by this chest pain. And he is rushed to the emergency room and then as the situation is assessed and decisions made, into the OR. As he was on his way, looking up from the gurney, he asked one of the nurses hovering over him, “Will they take my unction out?” She looked at him like he was crazy.”Huh?” She said. “Will they take my unction out? When you get into my heart just make sure you leave my calling in place!”  They gave him some anesthesia and heard no more from him. He awoke and looked around the room a bit confused by the fog of the drugs. He saw a nurse in the room. “M’am…would you come here?” He mumbled. “Why, of course! We are glad to see you back in the land of the living! What do you need?” “Ma’m, I need you to open that there drawer and get that Gideon Bible. Open it to 1 Samuel 17.40 and just read it to me.” She smiled and complied. And she began to read the King James Version of that Gideon Bible:

“And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine” (1Samuel 17.40 KJV)

“Now, how’s that?” she said as she put the Bible back in the drawer. “Just stand there and wait,” the preacher said. And he began to speak, “Five smooth stones, five smooth stones, that is all David needed five smooth stones, to slay that giant. And all we need is one crucified Savior.” He slumped back down exhausted and smiling. “Well, Ma’am, I was just checking to make sure. But they left the unction in my heart. Praise God, I still have my calling.”

This morning I want to challenge you to see if you have a calling in your heart. Because as we study Moses’ call, we can come to understand that when God wants to do something great in the world, when God wants to do something powerful in people’s lives, he calls. When God wanted to establish a nation that would bring forth a people who would bring forth a Savior for the world, God called Abraham. When God wanted to lead that nation to sing the Psalms of heaven and further prepare the world for a Messiah, God called David to become king. When God wanted the northern kingdom to know of their sin and His judgment against sin, God called Amos and other prophets. When God wanted Judah to know of their sin He called Jeremiah and others. When God wanted to prepare Israel for Jesus, God called John the Baptist from the womb to be His spokesman. When God wanted to reach the Gentile world and lay the foundation for a worldwide movement, to lay down the doctrines of that faith and to raise up other pastors for the work, God called Saul of Tarsus. Move through the years and remember that when God wanted to bring revival to England he called John Wycliffe to interpret the Bible into English. When God wanted to reform the excesses in the medieval Church he called Martin Luther and we celebrate that Reformation Day of October 31, 1517 this day. When God wanted to further reform societies in Europe and lay a powerful platform for the planting of churches and further missionary work that extends to this day, he called a French teacher named Jean Calvin to become pastor of a congregation in Geneva. When God wanted to reform Scotland God called John Knox who cried, “Give me Scotland or I die!” When God wanted to prepare a people to become a nation I believe that God called Jonathan Edwards to lead in concerts of prayer and faithful, careful exposition of the Word of God and God sent a Great Awakening that formed the moral bedrock for a new nation called America. Just three weeks ago an African man sat in my office and preached from this pulpit, the Archbishop of Uganda, called of God as a student to preach Christ and to become an agent of heaven in leading revival in Uganda and in reaching back into America to call churches to faithful witness for Christ and to call the second largest body of Christians in the world, the Anglican communion, to be faithful to the Bible in their doctrine and life and in their labors. But let us move from the noted examples to someone who affected you. When God wanted you to hear the Gospel God called someone in your life and that person answered the call of God and brought Jesus Christ to you. Clearly, we serve a God who calls men and women and boys and girls.

For God called Moses. And the way He called Moses remains the way He still calls. No, you are not in Midian but in Chattanooga. You are not Moses but you. But there are still features of a call that are the same.

First, let us establish that we do serve a God who calls.

We could say that He has a general call. That is God throughout history has called human beings to trust in Him. Romans chapter one tells us that this general call goes out to all people through the witness of general revelation as well as through what Calvin called the sensus divinitaa–the sense of the divine inside of all human beings. The general call also goes out to people through the preaching of the Gospel. Our nation has heard the general call of God for many years. And every person will be judged by having heard that call in whatever way. Today you are hearing a general call of God to turn from yourself and to trust in Him by receiving Jesus Christ. But you need to hear from the Holy Spirit to seal that call to your soul and that is called an Effectual Call.  The Scriptures tell us about this call, which is made effectual unto salvation in several places. In 2 Timothy 1.9, for example, we read:

who saved us and called us to* a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,* 2Timothy 1.9

And in Ephesians 2.8 and 0 we also understand that without the Holy Spirit we cannot accept the calling of God:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, Ephesians 2.8 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 9

Romans chapter 8 Paul gives us the Golden Chain of salvation and we see God’s calling in it:

And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Romans 8.30

And Paul in the next chapter of Romans shows that God accomplishes His will through human being through this call which He causes to become effectual unto salvation:

And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, Romans 9.10 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call— 11

There can be no doubt. As profoundly mysterious as it is, the call of God is how men and women are saved. It is as true as “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” It is not in conflict with that truth it gives meaning and eternal perspective to that truth. God calls and through His power that call takes root in our souls. If you will call on Jesus Christ today He will save you by His power.

But there is another kind of call in the Word of God and that is call to then give your life to God’s purposes in the world. This is not given to just one or two. It is not just for Moses or Paul or Calvin or Luther, it is for all of us. We are all to share the love and grace of Jesus Christ and to be His witnesses in the world. We read in Acts 8.4 that “they went everywhere preaching” and those who preached were not preachers but merchants and laborers and physicians and wives and husbands and boys and girls. Wherever you are God has positioned you to be His witness. The first answer to the catechism question is not just a throw away line, my beloved, but is the summation of the Christian life: we are put here to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever Each of us has a part.

But what?

Now here is where we come to what we might call a specific call. God calls us to a particular work. Now for some this call comes to follow Him as a pastor or a missionary. And I do not doubt that when I preach the Holy Spirit speaks to people today to assess their gifts and their passions and to discern God’s call to the ordained ministry. But there are other calls as well. God calls us to be teacher and housewives and doctors and administrators and businessmen and politicians. This is one of the great lessons of the Reformation: that each way in which we use our gifts and our time we are actually surrendering our lives to God’s call. And all calls are holy before the Lord if they are surrendered to Him.

Now let’s look at how Moses’’ specific call to go and be God’s man to lead Israel out of bondage is like our call today.

1. God’s Burden becomes yours (10)

God reveals His burden to Moses. God is burdened for His people. Moreover, if God’s plans and purposes for the entire earth are going to be realized, that Israel will become a people with a land that will produce a man, the Man, Christ Jesus, who will go forth to win the entire earth for God through His perfect life and His sacrifice on the Cross, then in that moment, in that time, the Hebrews had to be free. The pain had to end. The bondage had to be broken. And Moses had to know that it was not just an injustice that Moses knew existed but a part of the divine plan for salvation that God knew existed. And so Moses learned of God’s burden.
What is your burden? And is your burden God’s burden? My beloved, I am often asked about knowing God’s will. Sometimes that means “What do you think God wants me to do with my life?” And this is an important first step in answering the question. If you have heard the general call, and if you have responded by trusting in Christ and experienced in your life an effectual call, then your specific calling in life is wrapped up in what burdens your heart.

You  may not know the name of Candy Lightner. But this women has saved perhaps thousands of lives in America. You see in 1980, Candy’s daughter Cari was killed by a repeat offender drunk driver. And her burden for getting drunk drivers off of the road led to her founding of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  She had a burden.

Well, God’s burden is for saving human beings from the drunken consequences of sin and shame. And His burden came to life through Jesus Christ. He came, John said, to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3.8). And God’s burden for the liberation of human beings becomes ours when we personally encounter that oppression. When, like Moses, we see injustice, we see a need, and God comes to us, deep in our spirits, so that His burden is put on our hearts.
So if you ask me what is God’s will for you in your life, what is your specific calling, from God’s Word, I would begin by asking you, What is your passion? What is God’s burden that has now become your burden? Identify that and you are on the road to knowing God’s specific calling on your life.

There is a second identifying feature of Moses’ call that equates with our calling.

2. God’s Enemy becomes yours (10)

In the passage, the enemy of God is Pharaoh. This ruler, like all rulers, is under the authority of God. He rules only at God’s pleasure. And now his rule will be assaulted. He is defying God by holding God’s people. He is a type of Satan who also is holding human beings captive. Jesus said that Satan is a liar. He is a murderer. He is the enemy of God and the enemy of God’s people. Revelation teaches us that when the devil could not stop Jesus, was defeated and bound at His crucifixion and resurrection, He began an all out assault on God’s people. Today we see that in all kinds of ways across the earth. But as dark as the earth was before Jesus came, the light of Christ is now shining in new places around the world. The light is coming on! But there are many places in our own nation where the Enemy prowls like a roaring lion. I read just yesterday of a preacher who was arrested for being drunk and acting lewd in a public park at night. What a horrible disgrace! And I wish I could minister to that man and let know God loves him. How I wish I could let him know that God’s grace is greater than his sin. Somehow Satan our Enemy tricked this man. Or perhaps He is not a child of Christ and needs to know Jesus. There are many preachers like that I assure you. But in a way this poor creature is a picture of the Church of Jesus in America, drunk on the materialism of our country, stumbling along disgracefully involved in lewd things in our homes and in our minds. May God have mercy. May we come to hate the things that God hates. May we come to see that we are in a spiritual warfare and that only Christ can defeat this Enemy and that we should run Him today, and that we should claim His victory over sin in order to go forth in our calling.
To be called is to know that we are being called, not into a vacuum, but into spiritual warfare with the Enemy of God. But greater is He that is in us than He that is in the world.

Consider a third feature of Moses’ call and ours:

3. God’s people become yours (10)

The focus of God in this passage is His plan for His people. God loves people and so must we. God loves people in bondage and so must we. God loves sinners, thank God or I wouldn’t be alive. And if God loves sinners I must love sinners. But here is what I want you to see: God was building His Church.

When Stephen was being stoned, this great deacon began to preach to his persecutors. And in his preaching he simply retold the story of God’s redeeming work in Israel’s history and connected it to the situation he was facing. And in that recounting he says this:

“This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sinai, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us” (Acts 7.38 KJV).

You see Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, was the one leading Israel in the desert. And those who were His are called by Stephen “the church in the wilderness.” When God called Moses God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit was building His Church and the gates of Hell would not prevail.

And this is what I am saying: Moses had to love God’s people. And we are called to love the Church. In whatever we are doing, it must relate to the Church of Jesus Christ. We must be building up the Church.

I have a friend who is one of the greatest project engineers in the nation today. He is presently building what will be the largest power plant in the nation. But his passion is building churches and schools. He is an elder at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Overland Park and his burden is reaching the culture with the Gospel. And this burden has shaped his calling. And for the love of the lost and the love of the saints, he pours his gifts into bringing concepts to life. We came to Overland Park to cast a vision. But this man and others took the vision and ran with it. They built on it, brought it to life, and several weeks ago when we were there, I got to see this beautiful sanctuary fashioned after St. Martin in the Fields in London. It towers above all of the other structures in the area and its steeple causes people to look up. And that was the desire of this project engineer. His gifts and His calling have been shaped by God to focus on God’s people.

How are you using your gifts to build up the Body of Christ? Do you love the Church?

Well we have talked about God’s burden and God’s Enemy and God’s People, let us now see a final feature of a call:

4. God’s power becomes yours (11,12)

Moses questions the call. This is normal. And I would say that this is rational. You see he looks at his life: a failure, a washed up prince, a murderer, a herdsman who has traded a scepter for a sheep stick, a man with an identity crisis, a Hebrew-Egyptian married to an unclean Midianite daughter of a desert dweller. And God is calling this man to go and liberate an entire nation of Hebrews being held in slavery by the most powerful empire on the earth. Right. Sound familiar? How could David possibly kill the mighty Philistine with five smooth stones? How could a virgin Hebrew girl bring forth God in the flesh? How could the shameful Cross being about the glory of God and the salvation of His people?

Sometimes people will talk to me and pray for an open door for ministry. Then the open door comes. And you know what? They have to come back to see me. But this time we have to pray for courage to walk through that open door. Moses wanted to see Israel free. Now he has the call. But how could he do it? Here is the answer. Here is your answer for whatever God is calling you to do.

God says:

I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” 12

The answer to the question of how will we go and be God’s people, how will we accept God’s call, is God Himself. And the same mountain where Moses is called from, God will bring him back again, with a new life, to serve Him there. And Moses went to that mountain and Moses met with God to worship Him there. And he would look down to see over two million people on their way to a new place.

I love to go and see the boyhood homes of our presidents. I have see Eisenhower’s poor little house in Abilene, Kansas. We have walked through Richard Nixon’s house in Yorba Linda. And whether it is Plains, Georgia or Dixon, Illinois, Independence, Missouri, or for that matter, Hope, Arkansas, the boys who once played in the forests there, who worked in the fields, who lived simple, quiet and unremarkable lives, returned different men. There are Presidential Libraries there or National Historic Markers now memorializing their achievements. They returned to the place where they were first called, if you will. And it is a testimony.

You are somewhere now with God. Maybe you are worshipping Him at the foot of despair. Maybe you are being called by God as you go through a history course that is really though. It wouldn’t surprise me to see God call you to  be a history teacher. Maybe you are walking through the desert of divorce. It wouldn’t surprise me to see that God uses you to one-day reach broken families with the Gospel. Maybe you are worshipping God at the foot of the mountain of depression. It wouldn’t surprise me to see you one day being a great listener to someone struggling with depression. Maybe you are caring for an aging parent. It wouldn’t surprise me to see you one-day ministering right here with “It’s a Wonderful Life” seniors’ ministry. You see, God always brings us back to our place of calling to show us His glory. He is glorified in our weakness. This is what Paul meant in 2 Corinthians chapter 1:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 2Corinthians 1.3 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 4

God wants you to see that your calling in not dependent upon your gifts, but God’s greatness; not your passion, but God’s power.

Conclusion

So the call of Moses, a specific call to a specific ministry, teaches us about our calling today. And we have seen the features of this call including God’s Burden, God’s Enemy, God’s People, and God’s Power.

Some time ago, I visited Walker, Louisiana. It used to be called Milton Old Fields. There was a school founded by my great grandfather called Milton Academy. It is now called Walker High School. Somehow the Miltons were overtaken by the Walkers about the nineteenth century, but that is another story. I went to the Walker Methodist Church and took a look in their records. I found the year 1906, I think that is right. And I looked down at the record of those coming into the church. And there I saw the name, Mary Eva Milton. And it said that she came into the church on profession of faith in Jesus Christ. She was nine years old. And it recorded that she came to Christ during the visit of an evangelist. I cannot remember the name of this man but he was famous only to folks around there, I am sure. But you know what? When I saw that I was gripped by the Holy Spirit. Because I saw written down in 1906 the conversion of the woman who raised me and taught me the Word of God, my Aunt Eva. And one day I am going to find that evangelist in heaven and kiss his feet over and over again. I want to meet Luther and I want to meet Calvin and Knox and Whitefield and all of my other heroes in the faith. But I will find this man first, after I find Aunt Eva. For he accepted God’s call to go and preach Christ. He knew God’s burden for the lost. He hated the heartbreak caused by the Pharaoh-like rule of the devil in people’s lives. He loved God’s people. And he lived in God’s power. And Aunt Eva was saved. And then she was called to raise me and I was called. And now I stand before you. And God is calling you to look to Him by trusting in Jesus Christ. And He is calling you to be his man or woman, his boy, his girl to accomplish His purposes on earth.

I challenge you today to consider this call in your own life. Let us pray.

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About Michael Milton, Ph.D.

Michael A. Milton, Ph.D. (University of Wales, Trinity Saint David's College), is an American Presbyterian pastor, theologian, and author. He is, also, an alumnus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
This entry was posted in Biblical Theology, Books by Michael A. Milton, Books Written by Mike Milton, Call of God, Calling, Calvinism, Calvinistic, Chattanooga, Christian leaders, Christianity, Christians, Discipleship, Dr. Michael A. Milton, Dr. Michael Milton, Dr. Mike Milton, Effectual Calling, English Standard Version, ESV, Exodus 3:10-13, First Presbyterian, First Presbyterian Church, First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga, General Calling, God's purposes, Gospel, Grace, Holy Scripture, Holy Spirit, Homiletics, Homily, How do I know God's will, How do I know if God has called me to the ministry, Jesus Christ, John Calvin, Knowing God's Will, Martin Luther, Michael A. Milton, Michael Anthony Milton, Michael Milton, Michael Milton Presbyterian Minister, Mike Milton, Minister of the Gospel, Moses, PCA, PCA Ministers, Preach, Preacher, Preachers, Preaching, Presbyterian Church in America, Presbyterian Churches, presbyterian minister, Reform, Reformation, Reformation Day, Reformation Sunday, Reformed, Reformed sermons, Reformed Theology, Scriptural, Scripture, Specific Calling, Testify, Testifying, The Call of Moses, Theological Reflection, Theology, Theology of, Vocation, Wilderness, wilderness faith. Bookmark the permalink.

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