You Are Chosen with a Purpose

Exodus 19:1-6

When I look back on the way my elementary school teachers used to supervise physical education, I realize they were really using the time for a personal break.

On our playground, the teachers gave us a kickball and got out of the way.  That allowed the dominate children to take control while the shy, reserved, and unathletic children retreated to the background.  They mostly endured the experience but didn’t enjoy it.

A pecking order was established from the first day.   What the weaker children experienced could not have been much fun.

Typically, it worked like this.

Two of the dominant children were either chosen or nominated themselves to choose sides.

Then it was like the NFL draft, but we always knew who was going in the first, second, and third rounds.  Occasionally, there was a surprise choice.

As the class year went by, alliances were formed, and friends began to choose friends.  For some people, it wasn’t always about winning, but most of the time it was. However, it was always about being chosen.

When a game of kickball started, everyone was eventually chosen and placed on a team.  But even a third grader can figure out that if you are always the last one chosen, you have to come to terms with that in some way.

Hopefully, your classmates are just saying that you are an easy out, and nothing more, but sometimes it was more.

There were a few children that received the ultimate insult. It was usually a non-athletic girl that was the last to be chosen, and someone would say, “You get Vickie or Janet.” Someone from the other team would say, “You can have her.  We’ve got plenty.”

The ultimate insult.  She wasn’t chosen after all.  She was just put on a team by default.

I used to love showing up as a stranger to someone else’s game.   Even though I was small, I was a good athlete.  I loved it when they overlooked me because of my size, which was almost always the case.  There was always that moment in the game when I could see it on their faces, “We should have picked him.”

In the era of reality shows, one network has made an entire show around the idea of not being chosen.  The show is called the Bachelor.  One single man is surrounded by about ten beautiful women, and he dates them all.  I actually don’t know how many women there are.  I watched the first episode years ago and that’s the time I remember seeing the show.

In a rose ceremony at the end of the show, the bachelor chooses who he wants to continue to date.  This continues until he eventually chooses one that he supposedly wants to marry.

Of course, all the women think they are in love with this man and if they are not, they want to win to keep someone who really is in love with him from getting him.

Some people are captivated by this show.

I think I know what draws people to shows like this.  Deep down, we all want to be chosen.  All of us fear being rejected.

Let me tell you a secret.  A pulpit committee is a lot like The Bachelor.

For those of you who don’t know, Baptists put together a pulpit committee when a church looks for a new pastor.   The committee usually starts out with over 100 applicants and the committee has to narrow that list down to a few and then to one.

It’s like a rose ceremony.  Through questionnaires, phone conversations, Skype Interviews, personal interviews, and church visits, they give a few ministers a rose, figuratively of course.  Sometimes, the minister gives it back.  “No, thanks. I’ve seen enough,” the potential pastor says, that the relationship is ended.

During my ministry, I’ve gone through this ceremony several times. Obviously, I’ve gotten the rose a few times, because I have pastored three churches.

Sometimes, I’ve politely told committees to keep their rose but a few times when I didn’t get the rose is was very difficult for me.

Two years before you called me as your pastor, I journeyed with the pulpit committee of FBC Clemson, South Carolina.

Ironically, the pastor that had just left this church, Dr. Todd Wilson, was your former pastor.  Their rose ceremony came down to me and the pastor who is still at their church, Dr. Rusty Brock.

They chose Rusty.

For several months I had to deal with that disappointment because I had bonded with that committee.  I had the committee in my house.

I had traveled to Clemson.  I had envisioned myself being there.

But at least I didn’t have to deal with the pain of feeling unloved.  I knew the people on that committee loved me. They just believed that Rusty was a better match for their church.

Not being chosen for that church was very disappointing, but God’s “no” for that church became God’s “yes” for this one.

Many times when people are not chosen, they feel unloved.

Can you imagine being an orphan and longing for someone to adopt you?

Every now and then, a family comes to the orphanage looking for a child to adopt.  You are hopeful that the family is going to pick you.   Each time, you are looked over.  How do you feel?  My guess is that you’d feel unloved.

Imagine how you’d feel the day a family chose you, out of all the orphans to adopt.  Finally, you were noticed.  You were adopted.

Yet even in your joy, one day it occurred to you that your “yes,” was a “no,” to all of your friends.

That’s the world that we live in.   For everyone that is chosen, many others are not.

But I have some good news, that’s not the Kingdom God came to establish.

To share this good news with you, let’ go to the Old Testament.

It is true that God chose the Jews as his special people.  God did choose one group of people as his own.

How many of you have ever heard that the Jews are God’s chosen people? The Jews, who eventually became the nation of Israel, are God’s chosen people.

But here is the part that’s not told often enough.

We read in Exodus 19 that through Moses, God chose the Jews to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

What does this mean?

A priest is a mediator between God and man.  A priest is someone that helps connect us with God.  This was the mission God set aside for the Jews to accomplish, to help connect us with God.

The Jews were not chosen to the exclusion of others.  They were chosen to help introduce others to God.

However, many of the Jews in the Old Testament believed they were chosen to the exclusion of others.  They thought, “God chose us, which means God has rejected others.”

This was the attitude of the Jews in Jesus’ hometown.  We are chosen.  Others are not.  Jesus grew up with this attitude all around him.

Jesus’ first message to his hometown people in Nazareth could be summed up like this.

“You are chosen.”

With this, the people said, “Amen,” and talked about what an excellent message he was preaching.

Then Jesus said, “Others are also chosen, not just people of Jewish origin, but even people that are not Jews.”

With that, they ran him out of the church and ran him out of town with rocks in their hands.

We like to be chosen so much that we don’t like it when we hear that others might get to share in the same blessings we receive.  That’s too bad.

Once church people get comfortable in a church, we feel chosen.  We start marking out our territory and claiming our space.

We don’t like it when others come in and are chosen to share our space.

We forget that we have all been orphaned.  We forget that we have been chosen for a reason and that is to continue to reach out to people orphaned by sin, which means that if the church just revolves around those that are in it, we might actually be chasing Jesus out of the church.

So we must never forget that we have all been orphans.

Sin does that to us.  Sin separates us from our Creator.  “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)  We are all sinners.  We have all rebelled against God.  We became separated from God and were lost in our sin.

Part of the lostness happens because we are selfish people.  We became a part of a world where people live a lot like the children I played with on the playground as a child.

We are all jockeying for position, trying to be first in line.  We all want to be chosen and we don’t care if the same person is chosen last every day.

We live with a fear that our friends are going to abandon us and that we are going to be orphaned.  We live with a fear that no one is going to like us, love us, or accept us.

However, there is another way.  The Gospel is powerful.   We all need to come to an understanding that no matter who may have rejected us in our life, and in spite of our rebellion against God, God does not want to leave us orphaned.  God does not want to leave us alone or captive to our sin or to the sin of others.

Paul told the church at Ephesus:

4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.[b] 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 8 He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:4-8)

Our sins will leave all of us orphaned.   This is the reason we have such arrogance that we don’t believe we need God.  This is the reason we struggle with affirming our self-worth if we do not get the rose from the right people at the right time.

There are a lot of people suffering from the not being loved and not being chosen and it’s our job to reach out to them show them the love of Jesus.  Part of the problem with the church is that we have become comfortable in our chosenness.

John spoke about this in his letter to the church of Laodicea and told them that they had become lukewarm in their faith.

You know you have become comfortable in your chosen status if it doesn’t matter anymore if other people know that God has chosen them for a purpose.   Instead, we are only concerned about what makes us comfortable.

When a church is only concerned about itself, about its own internal needs, and we stop being concerned about the people around us, about telling them who Jesus is and what Jesus can do for them, we become a lukewarm church.

In the Song of Solomon chapter 2, there are these words, “I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of valleys.”

Not only does the Lord want to give people a rose, but He is the rose. He is a lily growing among the thorns. He is the crocus blooming in the desert.

We need to have a heart like God that celebrates when people get to participate in the good gifts he wants everyone to have.

Paul wrote to Timothy: 1I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:1-5 NIV)

One of the great messages of the Bible is that you are chosen, but so is your neighbor.

God has chosen you to participate in and enjoy the blessings of being a part of the family of God, but so are the very people that don’t come to church or want anything to do with the Christian faith.  It’s our job to let them know.

You are not chosen because you are better than anyone.  You are not chosen because no one else would accept the job.

You are chosen because God loves you and has loved you before you were conceived.

You are chosen for a purpose.  You are chosen to go and make disciples of others.

We are much like the Jews in this sense, our acceptance of God’s love is not just for ourselves.

Because God desires that everyone come to a saving knowledge of his love, when we come to understand that we are chosen, we should know that we are chosen for a purpose.

This morning, I’d like for you to think of the invitation as a rose ceremony.  The Lord is holding out a rose for you.  He is the rose.  He extends himself to you, his life, his death, his resurrection, his Spirit.  If you will come to Christ and confess that you need him in your life because you are not a perfect person, Jesus will become your Lord and Savior.

Perhaps you came to the Lord a long time ago and you recognize that your faith is being lived selfishly.  You are not fulfilling the purpose of your calling if you are not actively seeking to bring other orphaned people into the family of God and into his church.

This morning, Jesus is calling you to accept your calling.  Come follow Jesus in what He is asking you to do.   Today, just say to the Lord, “I am willing to follow you, wherever you lead me.”