Summary: A sermon on what it means for a Christian to be called out of the darkness of the world (e.g., past behaviors, relationships, attitudes, etc.) and called into the Kingdom of the Son.
About 11 years ago, I received my formal call into ministry. It wasn’t a call from a church. It wasn’t a call from a bishop. It wasn’t even a call from the Pope but that would have been nice. I considered it a direct call from God. You see, I had been struggling with where I was at in life. I was working in the business world for a number of years and started to pursue ministry, but I was at the stage where I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do. Should I stay in business and pursue my MBA or should I go and pursue ministry and pursue my Master of Divinity? I was at the stage where I was very wishy-washy. I could not decide what I wanted to do. Consequently, I was making my life miserable and also the lives of the people around me were miserable because I could not make up my mind.
One Sunday, I was at my home church in Portland, Oregon and Pastor Clark was giving a message. I don’t even know what the topic was, but he did what he always did. At the end of the service, he had an altar call for people to come forward for prayer or decision and that sort of thing. I remember going forward and just praying. I wasn’t exactly sure of my prayer. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was asking for, but at the end of it, I knew that I had done something. I had placed what I would call a spiritual stake in the ground. In other words, I was at a place where I said I don’t know what is ahead and I don’t know what is behind and I don’t know what my future holds, but all I know is that I need to make this commitment to go into ministry full time and that is what I did. What I didn’t know is that just five months later I would lose my first wife, Dana, who had an operation on her brain to remove a tumor and never woke up from that surgery. I didn’t know that would happen five months after making that decision. I didn’t know that I would be a single parent for three years raising a 9-year-old and 11-year-old as I pursued my Master of Divinity in Johnson City, TN. I certainly did not know that I would end up in Bellevue, PA, a place I had never even heard of and never knew existed, but here I am 11 years later today.
As I look back on that period, I can just see God’s hand involved in the whole process. I can rejoice in knowing that when I put that spiritual stake in the ground God honored that commitment. But before I accepted that call into ministry, first I had to accept another call and that is the call out of darkness into light. What some people would call the salvation experience or the born-again experience where you accept Jesus Christ as Lord and don’t turn back.
I will be honest. I don’t want to give a lot of detail, but my pre-Christian life was not the model life. Basically, I was doing things that I shouldn’t have been doing. I was smoking things I shouldn’t be smoking. I was drinking things I shouldn’t be drinking. I was watching things I shouldn’t be watching and I was hanging around with people that should not have been hanging around with. In my pre-Christian life, I got in a lot of trouble. In fact, looking back, I would say that in the time span between 17 and about 25 that period contained most of the things that I did in my life that I regret the most. Can anybody relate to that? If you are a teenager, listen up because that is when you usually screw up, between about 17 and about 25. Isn’t that correct? That is what happens. I don’t know what it is. You just go out and sow your wild oats or whatever you call it, but that is the period that I regret the most. But I also know that I was living like that but at one point I received another call. In fact, we had a call from another one of our ministers who came over and made a visit one night to our house. He came in and presented the basic gospel message that man is here and God is up here and the thing that separates us is sin. God has provided the remedy because we can’t reach up to God so he has provided a remedy and that remedy is in Jesus Christ. He comes and he will forgive our sins and all we have to do is accept that free gift of eternal life, accept the forgiveness of sins, and we will have eternal life. The basic gospel message. We both accepted Jesus Christ at that time. I don’t know about my wife Dana at that time. I don’t know what she was feeling, but I wasn’t feeling a whole lot. I really didn’t have fireworks go off or whatever in my head. Really there wasn’t a lot of change.