As I did last week, I’m posting the Sermon that I preached on Sunday. This was at my church, at Floreat Salvation Army, and was part of my pre-college assessments. The reading that this sermon is based on comes from James 2:14-24.
I come to you today a little bit disappointed. You see, when I started preparing for this sermon, we realised that this would be the first meeting after the Territorial Candidates board, and we had hoped that we would be bringing you some excellent news. Unfortunately, due to factors beyond our control, our papers weren’t able to be presented at the board so we have had to wait. We’ll hopefully be presented later this month, but we might have to wait until the middle of July. It’s been tough, knowing that it’s been delayed, but overall it has no effect on my calling.
A lot of you will know my story. I was involved at an Anglican church where I had grown up in, and had been there for 13 years. I was involved in leading our youth group, we had a young adults bible study, I had been involved at times in Parish Council activities. If you were to ask who was active in the church, I was up there.
When I met Liesl, I started to check out the Salvation Army, as while I knew they were a Church, I didn’t know much else. So I started to come along, and eventually I had a realisation that comes straight out of James. I had faith, strong faith, but it wasn’t accompanied by deeds. Yes, I was busy within the Church, but I also needed to be busy outside the Church. I was called to Ministry within the Salvation Army, to show my Faith through my deeds.
Faith through Deeds
My friend Paul has a great saying that he loves. It is “The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Therefore, evil is best recognised not by its motives, but by its methods.” I’d like to turn that on its head, and say that Good, or following the word of God, is best recognised not by motives, nor by its methods, but by the combination of the two.
Paul references in this letter the story of Abraham offering his son Isaac on the altar. Verse 22 says that “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” If we have faith, we must have our actions working together in conjunction with that. If we have deeds, we must also combine this with faith.
We are all called to be living out our faith with our deeds. However, everyone’s calling is different. How your deeds match up with your faith will depend on your calling, which will always match up with your spiritual gifts.
Last Sunday, I was taking a service at Cottesloe Uniting Church, where I was preaching on Pentecost. I talked about a few people whose spiritual gifts I really admire, but others might not realise. For example, Andrew who whenever anything technological goes wrong, he’s right in there fixing it up. Now, if the Powerpoint was to go awry right now, I know that Andrew would be there fixing it up as quickly as he could. Why? Because that is his spiritual gift, to make sure that our technology works to not distract us in worship. Or there’s Ruth, whose pastoral gifting is something that I admire so much. Whenever anyone is sick, it’s Ruth who will go and visit them. Even just the simple act of handing out newsletters at the youth meeting to those who weren’t at the morning meeting is something that I admire, and appreciate, as it makes them feel loved, and a part of this church.
See, it doesn’t matter whether your calling is to something up front, or behind the scenes. Whether it’s helping with emergency services, or helping mentor one of the young people in our corps. But whatever your calling is, the same things that Gareth talked about last week still apply.
You need to prepare to accept this calling. I first answered my calling in 2009. Since that time, there has been a lot of time spent in prayer, discerning whether this is the right calling, whether there may have been another ministry that I may be better suited for.
You need to have the presence of the Holy Spirit in your call. 1 Corinthians 12 says this:
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
Your gifts come from the Spirit, and as your calling comes from your spiritual gifts, without the presence of the Holy Spirit your calling will not fare well.
When we have the presence of the Holy Spirit, we are given the power to do amazing things. At Pentecost, it was Peter’s amazing sermon, quoting vast lengths of scripture. I hear of the work that Liesl does at Graceville, and I am amazed at how she can do it. She has often come home and told of stories where she has given advice to the women that she can’t remember ever hearing, but it was exactly what they needed to hear at that time. The Holy Spirit gives us abilities beyond our knowledge to follow our calling where we often think we can’t go.
Gareth said last week that Preparation, Presence and power find fulfilment in Purpose.
You will only find fulfilment of your calling through responding purposefully with preparation, presence and power. Fulfilment comes when you can’t imagine doing anything else. For me, I can’t imagine doing anything other than being an Officer. It’s something that I’ve never imagined before, it’s something that I have never wanted before. Yet, once hearing the call, responding by preparing through prayer, recognising the presence of the Holy Spirit in the call, opening myself to the power of the Holy Spirit to do amazing things in my life, I can’t imagine doing anything else – I find my purpose.
As with any calling, you need to be aware of the Product. Will your calling produce strong Christians, will your calling bring people to Christ, will your calling encourage others in their journey? When you have accepted your calling, you need to maintain your purpose by constantly reviewing your produce. Matthew 7:16 says “By their fruits you will recognize them” If you are not producing good fruit from your purpose, then you need to head back to the beginning, and review everything through prayer.
John chapter 20 verse 19-23 says”
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
This is a parallel passage to The Great Commission that is found in Matthew. Matthew’s version is “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” John’s version is far simpler: “Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.””
Jesus sends us out as his Father sent him, to tell the world about God, to help them find a deeper understanding of Jesus.
All are called
I take this to say that everyone, no matter who it is, is called to be like Jesus. As the Father sent Jesus to save the world, so we all are called to go out into the world, to bring others to a closer understanding of Jesus.
What will you do with your gifts?
So What will you do with your gifts? If you only take one thing out of today, it should be this: Discern what your spiritual gifts are and develop them so that you have a deeper understanding of God, and are able to use those gifts to bring others to a closer understanding of God.