You Were Set Apart from Birth
Jeremiah 1:4-10: Galatians
I read a
statement from John Eldridge’s book, Waking the Dead that
struck home with me. I am sure it will hit home with you also. Eldridge ask,
“So, who did God mean when he meant you?”
Eldridge then says, “We know that we
are not what were meant to be.”
Sin has hidden our true identity.
our lives hiding from what God meant when he made us. We are not
much different from Adam and Eve who sewed fig leaves together to hide. But
we need to stop and ask ourselves an all important question. What did God
mean when he made you?
an especially great question for our children here this morning. Did
God mean for you to be what those in your peer group want you to be? Does
God want you to be what your mom and dad want you to be? Just what is it
that God means for you? Many of you are beginning the process of breaking
away from mom and dad as you are entering into an adult world. It is
confusing—one moment you feel like a child—the next moment you feel like an
adult. What does God mean for you?
God has a
purpose for you existing—what is it? Christ’s purpose was to save us
from our sins. Jesus’ purpose was planned in eternity before creation. John
the Baptist purpose was to be a herald proclaiming Jesus as the Lamb of God
that takes away the sins of the world. Believe it or not his purpose was
planned in eternity. You may not be Jesus Christ, or John the Baptist, but
God had a purpose for you before you were born. You may hear people say, “I
believe that person has discovered their calling.” By this we mean a person
has discovered what they were cut out for—what they were created for.
spoke to Jeremiah saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations"
(Jeremiah 1:5). God did not want Jeremiah to make light of his purpose for
him—God said to Jeremiah, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’
You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not
be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ Declares the
Lord” (Jeremiah 1:7-8). For Jeremiah to say, “I am only a child” was to
minimize what God meant when he was formed in the womb.
spoke to Jeremiah he had a much different view about his mission in life.
Jeremiah said, “Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth
and said to me, "Now, I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I
appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy
and overthrow, to build and to plant." (NIV) Now Jeremiah accepts God’s
mission for his life—he sees that God meant him to be over kingdoms as he
spoke God’s word. Now he understands that God will use him to uproot, tear
down, overthrow, and build and plant the kingdom of God. God wants to use
you to build his kingdom also.
self-esteem in our world today is a direct result of accepting the world’s
view of ourselves—or should we say because we accept Satan’s view of
ourselves. After all, he is the prince of this world. Why do we
think our lives will not matter in the scheme of things? It’s because we
have a worldly view of ourselves. The world makes us feel like Jeremiah felt
as he was thinking—“I am only a child.” How true--you are only a child—but
you are a child of God—that’s the difference.
“By the Grace of God I am what
I am . . .”
You may not be a child, but it is not too late for
you to discover what God meant when he meant you. Zachariah
and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist didn’t learn their purpose
until they were old—too old to have children.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to
him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah
saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to
him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife
Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. 14 He
will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his
birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take
wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit
even from birth. 16 Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the
Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and
power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the
disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous-to make ready a people prepared
for the Lord." NIV
He had a plan for them even in their old
age—again, you also see God’s purpose for John before he was born.
We are God’s chosen vessels, and we just must discover the purpose for which
he chose to bring us into existence.
You will never have a correct view of your life
until you understand what God meant when he created you. Paul
understood his mission the moment he realized what God meant when he created
13 For you have heard of my previous way of
life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to
destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and
was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when
God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased 16
to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did
not consult any man, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were
apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned
to Damascus. NIV
1 Corinthians 15:10-11
10 But by the grace of God I am what I
am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder
than all of them-yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11
Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what
you believed. NIV
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named
Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, "Ananias!"
"Yes, Lord," he answered.
11 The Lord told him, "Go to the house of
Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is
praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his
hands on him to restore his sight."
13 "Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard
many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in
Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to
arrest all who call on your name."
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This
man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their
kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must
suffer for my name."
17 Then Ananias went to the house and
entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the
Lord-Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here-has sent
me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." 18
Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see
again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he
regained his strength. NIV
the last man on earth that Ananias wanted to trust. He had been
making havoc of the church—plundering and pillaging homes of the
Christians—dragging them into prison—even killing them. He didn’t see
anything right about God calling Saul, but Saul became the apostle
Paul—because he was God’s chosen vessel from birth.
1 Timothy 1:12-14
12 I thank Christ Jesus our
Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing
me to his service. 13 Even
though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was
shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our
Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are
in Christ Jesus. NIV
God’s grace doesn’t call us because of our
standing or accomplishments. He doesn’t call us because we
possess great strength. He calls us to be what he intended for us to be so
that we can experience God’s greatness and power for our lives. The moment
we accept our calling from God we begin to live in the glory of eternity.
1 Peter 5:10-11
10 And the God of all grace, who called you
to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will
himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be
the power for ever and ever. Amen. NIV
God calls us to live in his glory so that we can
tap into his strength. We often speak of glorifying God, but
the Bible has just as much to say about us sharing in his glory. You can’t
glorify God without sharing in his glory yourself. Understanding that you
were called before birth to share in God’s glory will help you discover
God’s calling for your life.
God didn’t choose the Israelites because they were
good, wise or powerful. They had absolutely no standing in
the world’s scheme of things. They were little more than animals to their
slave drivers, but they were the ones through whom God chose to reveal
himself through the stories of their lives. God chose their stories as his
7 The LORD did not set his affection on you
and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you
were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the LORD loved you and
kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a
mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of
Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is
the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of
those who love him and keep his commands. 10 But
those who hate him he will repay to their
face by destruction;
he will not be slow to repay to their face
those who hate him.
11 Therefore, take care to follow the
commands, decrees and laws I give you today. NIV
Our calling and its possibilities rest in the
promises and power of God—not in ourselves. When you accept God’s promise
you experience God’s calling, and you experience the power of God.
2 Corinthians 4:1-2
4:1 Therefore, since through God's mercy we
have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret
and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of
God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend
ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. NIV
Paul accepted God’s calling through personal
repentance—he renounced the ways of the world. Now notice how he experiences
the all surpassing power of God.
2 Corinthians 4:7-12
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay
to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are
hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;
9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We
always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of
Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always
being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed
in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work
in you. NIV
Paul got sidetracked with religion, but he finally
saw his calling from birth. Many in this audience are
endanger of being sidetracked with religion. Jeremiah was a sinful man, but
God told him that was not what he created him for. He was born to preach to
the nations. God doesn’t call us because of our achievements or greatness;
he calls us because he has a great calling for our lives—we were created for
it. When Isaiah was called he simply said, “Here am I send me.”
Listen to me, you islands;
hear this, you distant nations:
Before I was born the LORD called me;
from my birth he has made mention of my
2 He made my mouth like a sharpened sword,
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me into a polished arrow
and concealed me in his quiver.
3 He said to me, "You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will display my splendor."
4 But I said, "I have labored to no purpose;
I have spent my strength in vain and for
Yet what is due me is in the LORD's hand,
and my reward is with my God." NIV
We go through life playing roles people expect us
to play—while being afraid to accept our calling from God.
We have played the roles so long that we have lost our true identity.
We are afraid to reveal who we really are. We fear people want like us for
who we are. God didn’t create us for role playing. He created to be who we
are. Our children need to understand this.
Discovering God’s Call from
Within your heart there is a sense of what you
ought to be, should be, and want to be. Don’t spend your life
running from it. Even those who have turned bitter and cynical have a desire
to be something more. That’s why they are bitter and cynical—they know how
the world ought to be—they want to make a better response to the world—they
can’t because they blame the world. Sense you know what the world ought to
be—isn’t that the way you would really like to be. There is where you must
begin to discover God’s calling for your life.
Jeremiah says, “The heart is wicked above all
things, who can know it?” I have discovered over the last few
weeks that I have used this verse in the wrong context. The heart is capable
of devising wicked plans—we don’t understand why the battles rage in our
hearts, but in the deepest recesses of the heart—it knows better—this better
part of the heart is what you must tap into to discover who you really are.
There is where God desires to begin his work in you.
9 The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
10 "I the LORD search the heart
and examine the mind,
to reward a man according to his conduct,
according to what his deeds deserve." NIV
The heart is deceitful, but we begin to tap into
what God is calling us to be when we choose to change our conduct.
When we change our conduct, God moves in and rewards us according to our
deeds. However, don’t expect him to remove the deceitfulness of the
heart—Satan’s curse of tainting our hearts will be there until we die.
our lives focusing on the darkness of our hearts. We believe it’s
the darkness that defines who we are. That’s Satan’s trick. He wants you to
spend your life looking at the darkness. He wants you to believe the
darkness is the bounds of your existence. He is saying, “Sew some fig leaves
together because you should be ashamed of the way God made you.” So we spend
our lives hiding the darkness of our hearts because we think that is who we
think we really are.
Satan wants you to believe that the darkness of
your heart is what defines you—it is what determines the bounds of your
existence. But it isn’t—that
is not who you really are—you must focus on your deepest desires—focus on
the light in your heart that exposes the darkness, but do not allow the
darkness you see define who you are.
That discontent within your heart seeks to point
you to the life you only think possible in your dreams. The
life in your dreams is what God meant when he meant you. That’s who you
really are—you think not—but why do you have that dream—because that is your
There is a crucial fact about discovering our
calling. I don’t want this to be a discouragement to you—but
finding your calling may be painful. However, we will suffer either way—if
you follow the world’s ideas about who you ought to be—there is also a price
to pay—you will suffer in the end. The apostle Paul asks Timothy to suffer
2 Timothy 1:8-9
8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our
Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the
gospel, by the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us to a holy
life-not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and
of Paul’s life was that he spent time in prison just as those he persecuted
had. He even died for the faith just as those he had murdered died
for their faith. I often wonder if God didn’t allow Paul to reap the
consequences of the havoc he had sown in the lives of others. If this is the
case—he suffered in such a way that God shared his glory with him.
One of my
relatives said, “Life is hard!” She has always lived life against the grain.
It has been extremely hard for her. It is not getting any easier.
She is reaping much of what she has sown in her own children. She is
choosing to live without the help of God’s power.
We look back at
what was done, and the way it was done in the first century rather than
focusing upon our personal calling. Selfishness dictates that we must direct
our own lives and stay where we are comfortable. Selfishness keeps us from
integrating our faith with the rest of our lives.
know why it is so hard to hear God’s call? It is hard to awaken to
his call because we are afraid to face those temptations that rob us of
God’s dream for our their lives. We think those temptations are too powerful
to overcome. We are afraid that we can’t quit sinning. We are afraid that we
never realize God’s desire for your life as long as you are afraid that the
Devil’s hold on your life can’t be broken. Jesus Christ has broken
Satan’s grip on your life. He came to free you from the darkness of your
heart. He wants to be the light of your life. The only way he can do this is
for you to accept him as your Lord and savior.
You must die
with Christ so that you can experience his resurrection. You can die with
Christ in baptism. There in baptism you receive forgiveness of Christ as you
take upon yourself the life of Christ.
John Eldredge, Waking the Dead, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville,
2003 pg. 82