Live as You are Called
Today we are going to review a passage from First Corinthians, but before we do so we will quickly review why Paul wrote this letter.
The city of Corinth was at the heart of a primary trade route in the ancient world. Like many cities that thrive on trade, Corinth had a reputation for sexual immorality, religious diversity, and corruption. The church that Paul planted there (Acts 18) floundered under all of these influences and began to divide over various issues. First Corinthians addresses many of the practical questions dividing the churchâ€”questions concerning such things as spiritual gifts, marriage, food offered to idols, and the resurrection. Paul urged the Corinthians to be unified and to give themselves fully to "the work of the Lord" (15:58). Chapter 13 includes a well-known passage on the nature and importance of love. Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians from Ephesus in the spring of a.d. 55.
Now, Chapter Seven begins with a focus on the principles of marriage and ends with a treatise on the unmarried and widowed. Right in the middle we find a section, 1 Corinthians 7: 17-24, separating these two that discusses the way we are to live as we are called. This will be our focus today.
This scripture admonishes us to "lead the life that the Lord has assigned" us. We are to lead this life by keeping the "commands of God" regardless of what condition we were called. In a society where the vast majority of people buy into the philosophy that "the grass is always greener on the other side", it is important for those in God’s flock to pay attention to where He leads. Let me read this scripture and then make a few observations about it.
1 Corinthians 7:17 – 24 17Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. 18Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. 20Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity. 22For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. 23You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. 24So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.
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 house or neighborhood, we move. If we don’t like our job, we change careers. If we don’t like the laws, we change them. 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 to "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 appears 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. 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.
At times this can personally be quite confusing. What role am I to play in such a conflicting culture where our thinking is constantly changing by new ways of looking at things? Television, Cell Phones, and the Internet are all examples of disruptive technologies that have completely changed the way we view our roles and the world around us.
The church in America is not immune to these changing effects either! We deal with difficult issues on a regular basis. 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 children challenging the authority of parents.
Now, all the answers are not necessarily specifically laid out in scripture, but there are definitely principles and precepts given to guide us through the chaos of our lives. We can apply these principles when we seemingly find ourselves enslaved to a role we don’t like. Some substantial principles and precepts are found in our scripture today.
When we feel cheated by a role that God, time, 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 be 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 9Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And such were some of you. 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. (ESV)
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 were in when they were converted. 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. 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.
Paul tells us that changing roles isn’t going to count for anything if we do not keep God’s commandments (1 Corinthians 7:19). Christ tells us that if we love Him we will keep His commandments. So, rather than attempting to discover a way to change our situation, we should be consistently seeking a way to love Christ and follow His commandments and then perhaps we will begin to see our situations change.
It is interesting to note the way most of us pray today. It tends to be numerous prayers for God to change our role, move us out of the situation we are currently in, or otherwise make things more to our own liking. However, a survey of prayers in the New Testament demonstrate a plethora of instances where the individual praying is asking for endurance, strength, and fortitude to serve God in their current situation.
Our God is a sovereign God! He is in control of everything, even the situation or role that you currently find yourself in! Our God is a purposeful God, He has a purpose for the situation or role that you currently find yourself in. Our God calls us to fulfill His purpose in every situation and role that He sovereignly places us in. It is our responsibility to keep His commandments in every situation and role that we find ourselves in.
Keeping in mind at all times that we are indeed bought with a price. Christ died for us, he deigned to change His own situation, that of living in heaven, in order to place Himself in the role of Redeemer. His role carried dreadful consequences, and yet he fulfilled God’s purpose by keeping God’s commandments in every single situation He found Himself in. He was crucified, dead, and buried. Yet He rose again on the third day, and now sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
What better example can we ask? We see clearly that Christ Himself lived as He was called. He didn’t attempt to change His role, but glorified God in the role assigned to Him and in doing so, He is now glorified!
You were bought with a price! Do not become slaves of men by blindly following the culture around you as they, much like lemmings, run blindly and without purpose in whatever direction the others around them are headed.
As Christians the grass will always be greenest in the situations and roles our Good Shepherd assigns us. Lead the life the Lord has assigned you and to which God has called you.
This text was heavily influenced by another sermon that I had read via the Internet. Unfortunately I don’t remember where. If anyone reads this and recognizes the other please let me know so that I can give proper credit.
September 18, 2016
January 09, 2009