“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:3, ESV).1 Amen. Who am I? Why am I here on earth? What is my purpose in life? Do you ever ask yourself questions like these? We should. The unexamined life is a life not lived well. The Bible says that King David served God’s purpose in his generation, and then he died (Acts 13:36). (Aside: Talk about a great epitaph for a tombstone: “I served God’s purpose in my generation.”)
We’ve just come through graduation season. Many high school and college graduates wonder about their vocation and what kind of education or job they should pursue. Often their primary question is
1 All Scripture references, unless otherwise indicated, are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.
“What job will make me the most money?” Talk about gaining the world and losing your soul (Mark 8:36)! Sometimes graduates ask a better question: “What career will be the most fulfilling to me as a person?” But both questions are basically self-centered and self-serving. The right question is “What should I do with my gifts and abilities to glorify God and love and serve my neighbor?”
A career spent trampling others on the way to the top of the corporate ladder is not what God intends for us. An endlessly busy life with no rest, no worship life, and no family time is not an abundant life. But a life spent in loving service to others is a better life than one wasted on the pursuit of power, fame, position, or greedy gain. And a retirement spent mentoring students or serving at church is a retirement better spent than one on the golf course and a world tour.
In our epistle lesson today, Paul says that God had the same purpose for his life: God “set me apart before I was born, and…called me by his grace…, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles…” (Gal. 6:15-16). Even before he was born, Paul was set apart and called to preach Christ to the nations.
Paul’s purpose is our purpose too! God wants to use us to bring other people to Jesus. Martin Luther agrees:
“We have no other reason for living on earth than to be of help to others. If this were not the case, it would be best for God to kill us and let us die as soon as we are baptized and have begun to believe. But He permits us to live here that we may bring others to faith, just as He brought us” (LW 30:11).
Our main purpose in life is to bring others to faith in Jesus. Nothing more, nothing less. If our purpose was merely to believe in Jesus so we could die and go to heaven, then God would kill us as soon as we believed. But our job is to bring others with us to heaven. And that’s why God calls us to share the Gospel with our friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers.
Of course, people have all kinds of excuses for why they can’t share God’s saving message with others. Moses grumbled that wasn’t a good speaker (Ex. 4:10) and that he was a nobody (Ex. 3:11). Jeremiah complained he was too young (Jer. 1:6). And Simon Peter said he was too much of a sinner (Luke 5:8). To that we add our own excuses: “I’m too busy,” “That’s the pastor’s job,” or “I don’t want to offend anybody.” But today I want to focus on two specific excuses we make
to duck out on our calling: First, “I’m not good enough”; and second, “I’m not smart enough.”
First Excuse: “I’m not good enough.”
The first excuse is “I’m not good enough.” Many Christians fear to share their faith because they worry they’ll be shown for the hypocrites they really are. Sometimes we talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. We go to church and talk about God and Jesus, but we don’t always live the way that Jesus wants us to. We’re functional atheists, believing in God but living as though he doesn’t exist. It can be hard to share Jesus with our unbelieving friends if we got drunk with them at a party last weekend or if they know the kinds of jokes we tell. It can be hard to tell our coworkers about Christ when they know what a grump we can be at the office. We figure we’ll be painted a fraud and do more damage than help. And so we keep silent and let our friends go to hell instead.
Gospel Response: God’s grace is enough.
But Paul tells us that none of us are good enough for God’s work. The power of our witness has nothing to do with who we are and
everything to do with who God is. And God is a God of mercy and grace. Paul was called by God’s grace (v. 15). It had nothing to do with how good he was. In fact, Paul called himself the chief of sinners because of his dark past (1 Tim. 1:15, KJV). As Paul reminds us, before he became a Christian, he hated the Church and tried to destroy it. “For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it” (Gal. 1:13). When Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was stoned to death, Paul held the coats for the executioners (Acts 7:58-8:1). And afterwards, “breathing threats and murder,” Paul hunted down believers like the Gestapo and threw them into prison (Acts 9:1). Not until the risen Jesus appeared to him in blinding light on the Damascus road did Paul finally change his ways and come to Christ. And then Jesus called Paul to preach the Gospel to all the nations, so that they would believe in Jesus and be saved.
That’s what God’s grace does. It takes the worst of us sinners and turns us into saints. We are all hypocrites of varying degrees, people who say one thing and do another. But God’s grace comes to murderers
and liars, scoundrels and cheats—sinners like us—and wipes away our sins. There’s nothing we can do to deserve this forgiveness. Grace is a gift won for us by Jesus on the cross. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). No matter what you’ve done or haven’t done in the past, God loves you and forgives you—and calls you by his grace. Truly, we are sinners. But because Jesus’ blood washes away your sins, you are also a saint. Someone once said, “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” Our goal is to help make sure that our friends have a future with Jesus.
Second Excuse: “I’m not smart enough.”
As God’s forgiven people, we want to tell others about Jesus. But sometimes we don’t know what to say. Whether life-long believers or baby Christians, we wonder what to say and worry that we don’t know enough about the Bible to share our faith. Our excuse is “I’m not smart enough.” After all, our pastors go to seminary for four years to study theology before they begin their ministry. You might say, “I don’t have
a degree or any special insights—how can I tell others what I believe?” And so, in our fear and embarrassment, we clam up and keep silent.
Gospel Response: Faith is enough.
But sharing your faith doesn’t mean that you have to be a Bible expert, quoting chapter and verse. You don’t have to memorize the Four Spiritual Laws, the Romans Road, or read all the latest books and articles about Christian apologetics so that you have a zinger response for every argument an atheist hurls at you. Evangelism isn’t about having all the answers; it’s about loving The Answer: Jesus. You’re not saved by what you know but by what you believe. Faith isn’t a matter of the head, but of the heart. The Bible says, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 Cor. 1:27). When you share your faith, don’t worry about what you’ll say. Simply tell people about God’s love and what Jesus is doing in your life. As the disciples said in the Book of Acts, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20, NIV). So don’t worry about what you’ll say (Matt. 10:19-20)! Leave that up to the Holy Spirit!
Paul didn’t go to seminary to become an apostle. He didn’t have any special training. He didn’t get “schooled up” on Jesus. In fact, he makes a strong point that he didn’t receive instruction from any of the other apostles (Gal. 1:18-19). Instead he simply told people what God had done in his life—his revelation, or experience, of Jesus’ love and forgiveness. “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:11-12). Jesus came to Paul on the Damascus Road, and it changed his life forever! He was never the same again. God comes to you in the Gospel and in the waters of Holy Baptism, and it changes your life forever! You’ll never be the same!
Now Where Do We Go from Here?
God has called you by his grace. Your sins are forgiven because Jesus died and rose again for you. Now God has set you apart for a special purpose: to tell others about his love and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. That’s who you are. It’s why you’re here. God created us and calls us to do great things (Eph. 2:10; John 14:12).
Someday when we get to heaven, I hope that you’ll be able to look around with joy at all the people we brought with us. You’ll see all the smiling faces of those who believed in Jesus—and were saved—because of the wonderful Gospel we shared with them. And they will glorify God because of you…and the message you proclaimed (cf. Gal. 1:24). It is the same message somebody shared with you: the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection to save us from sin, death, and the power of the devil. The same Gospel preached by Paul and believed by you is the same message that our non-Christian friends and neighbors need to hear. That is our purpose in this generation! Are you ready to live on purpose? Let’s do it, by God’s grace. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of  the Holy Spirit. Amen.