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Abiding In Our Calling In A Modern World

1 Corinthians 7:17-24

Jim Davis

Our value systems have been turned on their heads over the last couple of decades. Of course some of them need turning on their heads. But we seem to think that it is our duty to overturn all the values of the past generations. Nowhere is this more acutely seen than in the changing roles in life.

If we don't like our sex we have a transsexual operation. If we don't like just one sex, we become bisexual. If we like one sex we become homosexual. If we don't like the body God endowed us with; we lift it, tuck it, suck it and stuff it. Our generation has gone from husband and wives too significant others. We have gone from two parent homes to one-parent homes or no parents at all; we have gone from parental authority to child authority.

There seems to be a dire need for everyone to challenge the role assigned him or her by God, time and circumstances. Maybe it is because the grass always looks greener on the other side. Maybe it is because we feel deprived with our station in life. It may be that we are actually deprived because of circumstance. I guess there are all sorts of reasons good ones and bad ones for challenging the roles we are called to fill. It seems that we are fostering upon every succeeding generation the need to challenge the role assigned to us by God, time and circumstances.

Personally dealing with these changing roles is not as humorous as television makes it out to be. At times it is mind boggling, to say the least. What role am I to play in such a conflicting culture where the thinking is changing by a new wave of looking at things?

The church certainly isn't immune to the effects of changing lifestyles. We must deal with the difficult ramifications daily. We have leaders who have usurped their authority and abdicated God from his throne; we have preachers who have usurped the authority of Christ by what they teach. We have women who challenging their role in the church. We have children challenging the authority of parents.

All the answers may not be specifically laid out in scripture, but I believe that there are principles and precepts given in scripture to guide us through the haze. These precepts can give us guidance when we seemingly find ourselves enslaved to a role in which we wish to be set free. Some substantial principles and precepts are found in the following verses.

When we feel cheated by a role that God, time or circumstances or choice have placed us in, we should ask ourselves some questions.

What is my responsibility to God in the role that I now occupy? Does the role I occupy violate the role I am naturally made to fill whether male or female? Can I fill this role without violating the expressed will of God? Is God asking me to abandon the role that time, circumstances, birth or choice has dictated for me over which I have no control?

It goes without saying that if our role in life is an ungodly role we must come out of it no matter how natural the role may seen in the culture in which we live. As we observe what the Corinthians gave up as Christians, it is indicative of the sinful roles we must give up as a child of God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (NIV)
What Is Our Calling?

God told Eve in Eden, " . . . your husband will rule over you." (Genesis 3:16)

Ephesians 5:21-25
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (NIV)
Peter reveals the power found in filling the role God has assigned to the woman.
1 Peter 3:1-2
Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. (NIV)
Woman's role in the church.
1 Timothy 2:9-15
I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing-- if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. (NIV)

1 Corinthians 14:33-34
For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. (NIV)

Quietness and submission are key words in these verses that get our attention. A woman can speak while being quiet and submissive. The woman can speak but she is not to teach men in a public setting. She is to be quiet and submissive as opposed to challenging everything that the men do.

Role of Husbands, Children and Servants

Ephesians 5:28-30
In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church-- for we are members of his body. (NIV)

Ephesians 6:1-8
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother"-- which is the first commandment with a promise--"that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth." Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free. (NIV)

Retain Your Place In Life

1 Corinthians 7:17-24
Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God's commands is what counts. Each one should remain in the situation which he or she was in when God called him. Were you a slave when you were called? Don't let it trouble you-- although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord's freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ's slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.  Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to. (NIV)

Paul's original instructions in 1 Corinthians 7:14-24 was concerning marriage. The Corinthians were to determine the best way to serve God in married or unmarried situations they werein when they were baptized. Yet, this basic principle is continually demonstrated throughout the scriptures not only in marriage situations but also in every walk of life.

Our modern mindset seems to want to change everything but what needs to be changed. Instead of redefining everyone's role, would we not be more blessed if we learned how to serve God in the circumstances we find ourselves?

Often we bemoan the fact that things should be different. This is indicative that we feel deprived by circumstances. In 1 Corinthians 7:24 Paul reminds us that we have been bought with a price and he tells us not to become enslaved to the world's thinking. Jesus paid the price for us to be set free in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. We must make doubly sure that men do not enslave us to time and circumstance by thinking like the world thinks. We can exercise our freedom in Christ in our assigned role whether it is an ideal situation or not.

Of course, filling a role we aren't comfortable with is not always easy. My wife doesn't like to drive. She only drives when she has no choice about the matter. Once she had to drive a second vehicle while  following me through the freeway system in Los Angeles. We stopped at a restaurant after we got off the freeway. Just inside the door of the establishment there was a machine that you could place a quarter in and it would read your blood pressure. You had to place the tip of your finger in the machine when you fed the machine a quarter. When I tried it to see how it worked, it worked pretty well for me, my blood pressure was normal. My wife poked her finger in as she inserted a quarter. The machine flashed in big red letters "SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION." I hadn't realized how upset she was over driving in Los Angles.

That incident has been almost fifteen years ago and we still laugh about the blood pressure machine in LA. Sometimes the roles we must fill in life are not always easy; they make our blood pressure rise. We must realize that the Great Physician is calling us to follow him to discover the freedom God is offering each of us even in the roles forced upon us.

What I have said thus far in no way justifies those who would deprive others of their rights. It in no way justifies any ungodly lifestyle. God will deal with those people. It is only to help those who are deprived of their rights, those who may very well be deprived of filling a more natural role in life because of time and circumstances. This lesson is also to those feeling deprived of their rights and who would like to strike out against the status quo. The general rule is, serve God where you are.

Discover Your Freedom Where You Are

Discover your freedom where you are and remember that regardless of your circumstance you are free in Christ. Paul asks, " Were you a slave when you were called? Don't let it trouble you-- although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord's freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ's slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men." In whatever role time, circumstance, choice or God has placed us in we are free to serve Christ. We are free to live in less than idea circumstances. We see God's people throughout history living in less than ideal circumstances.

Joseph had no choice about his role in life. Joseph was a young man who was sold into slavery at the young tender age of 17 by his own blood brothers. He virtually spent the rest of his life filling a role forced upon him through no choice of his own. His role in life took him from being the favorite son, to prison, and from an interpreter of dreams to the man in charge of Egypt. The key to Joseph's life was that he discovered the freedom to worship and serve God whether he was living in prison or a palace. When he looked back at his life, he understood that circumstances beyond his control dictated his lot in life but he discovered God's assignment and therein enjoyed his freedom to serve God.

Esther is another outstanding example of filling a role forced upon her. Esther had guarded her virginity all her life only to be paraded before a king as chattel property and as an object for the king's own personal pleasure. In that situation Esther discovered her freedom to serve God. Mordecai reminded Esther of the responsibility for her role telling her "And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 3:14b) It was there in those less than ideal circumstances that Esther realized that God was calling her to live up to his purpose for her role in life. It was there before that king that God enabled Esther to save the Jews from extinction. She may have been enslaved to the king but she was a servant of the Most High God. What a high calling! God may have very brought to our place in life for such a time as this.

Daniel was another young man that was deprived of all his childhood dreams and aspirations. He was taken from his homeland during the Babylonian captivity as Nebuchadnezzar was draining all the brainpower from the Jews. He took all the brilliant children to his palace to be brainwashed. It was there in what was meant to be a brainwashing circumstance that Daniel and his friends discovered the role to which God had called them. Daniel served God's high calling for his life. He had no choice but to accept the role time and circumstance dealt him. It was anything but idea, but Daniel lived through the fall of Babylon. He was the one who read the handwriting on the wall for Belshazzar the night Belshazzar's Babylon fell to the Medes. Daniel was there to tell him that he had been weighed in the balances and found wanting. When Darius the Mede came to power Daniel was promoted over the whole kingdom of the Medes and continued to prosper when Cyrus the Persian came to power. Daniel survived in spite of the role that time and circumstance forced upon him. God freed him to serve his life out under three evil empowers because he was willing to fill the role in which he found himself.

No one was more deprived of rights and justice than the eunuchs. In Acts 8 when Philip came upon the eunuch he was reading this passage of Scripture: "He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth." (Acts 8:32-33 NIV) You can only wonder if this eunuch who was emasculated at birth, as you would neuter and animal was trying to find some solace in these scriptures? His God given rights had been taken away at birth and he had suffered humiliation all his life without any hope of justice. No one would ever see his descendants. Philip began at that scripture and preaches to him about Jesus' humiliation, deprivation of descendants and justice. It was there that the eunuch discovered his freedom in Christ and went on his way rejoicing. He no doubt discovered the freedom to serve Christ in Ethiopia by telling others about the freedom they could have in Christ. There was no changing role for him. He no doubt served Christ well and therein rose above his circumstances of time and culture.

The religious system of Jesus' day was corrupt. "Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.'" (Matthew 23:1-3 NIV) There was never a conspiracy to overthrow the powers that be. The disciples were told to submit. Jesus told his disciples to do everything the Pharisees and rulers told them to do, but he told them not to do what they did, for they would preach one standard and live by another. Their role was to live by the rules that had been abused for centuries. Therein they found their freedom to serve Christ. That goes against the value system of our day, but it was this very precept that set them free to serve Christ.

These success stories out of dire circumstances should be an inspiration to all of us. The only precept that will lift us above the confines of time and circumstance to a higher calling no matter what our present situation happens to be is to discover the freedom Christ offers to serve right where we are. If we choose to fill the role we find ourselves in today, we will discover our true freedom in Christ. It then that we will discover a higher calling in God.

There is a truth that we will miss in all these stories if we are not careful. If we are not willing to do the best for God in the role we now possess, changing roles will not be a benefit. If God does want us to change roles, we will only discover our new role by filling the one we are now filling. If we don't discover the freedom to serve where we are standing, there will never be another role for us to fill.

Be Responsible to God

Paul said, "Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to." (1 Corinthians 7:14-24)

The difficulty in living by the rules is understanding and applying the precepts and principles and exceptions that are involved in keeping the rules. Not every situation is clear as our roles often crisscross. It may be legitimate for us to seek to serve in a different role if time and circumstance permit. Paul said, "Were you a slave when you were called? Don't let it trouble you-- although if you can gain your freedom, do so." But generally a role in God's kingdom that we must seize by force or power that disregards the rights of others or the peace and unity among God's people is wrong. It doesn't matter what gender you are.

There are no little people in God's kingdom. There is an unalterable law of God that applies at all times and in all circumstances. The more submissive the role, the more of a servant you are called upon to be in God's kingdom, the greater the reward. The one that is the least is the greatest in God's kingdom. This is God's way of saying that actually there are no little people in God's kingdom. "The greatest among you will be your servant." (Matthew 23:11 NIV) This one principle would do much for those who are seeking a seemingly a greater role to fill.

Are we going to feel deprived or are we going to discover a higher calling of God in the roles we find ourselves?

Men and women are to love another as Christ loved the church. What a high calling in God. What a call to service! What a challenging role - - loving each other as Christ loves the church. Paul challenges the women in what he teaches, but he also challenges the men to live up their calling.

Children are to obey their parents in the Lord. In a day where kids rule, maybe we need to restore the blessedness of their childhood and start making decisions for them. Maybe that is what our children are so angry about today.


"You Were Bought with A Price . . ."

In the verses for our lesson Paul said, "You Were Bought with A
Price . . ." The God of heaven gave up his role in eternity to wash the feet of those whom he called. There was no job too menial for God. He wasn't too good to do anything. God is asking us to accept the same valid principles for our lives. "A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master." (Matthew 10:24-25 NIV)

As our roles crisscross in life and in the church, we must make certain that we are living up to God's high calling. One thing wrong with our children today is that they have been deprived of their childhood and they are mad. Maybe that is why everybody is uncomfortable. We haven't discovered our God given role to freely serve God right where we are.


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