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You Were Set Apart from Birth

 

Jeremiah 1:4-10: Galatians 1:13-17

 

Jim Davis

 

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.” [1] Sin has hidden our true identity.

 

We spend 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?

 

This is 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.

 

The Lord spoke to Jeremiah saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

before 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.

 

After God 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.

 

The low 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.

 

Luke 1:11-17

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 him.

 

Galatians 1:13-17

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

 

Acts 9:10-19

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

 

Saul was 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 salvation story.

 

Deuteronomy 7:7-11

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.”

 

Isaiah 49:1-4

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 name.

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 nothing.

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

 

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.

 

Jeremiah17:9-10

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.

 

We spend 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 calling.

 

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 with him.

 

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 grace. NIV

 

The irony 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.

 

Conclusion:

 

Do you 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 can’t change.

 

You will 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.


 


[1] John Eldredge, Waking the Dead, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 2003 pg. 82

 

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