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KINDRED SPIRITS IN THE LORD - Part I

 A SERMON DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
4 JANUARY 1998

 Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
<flh@all-creatures.org>

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Jeremiah 1:5
Acts 9:3-6
Galatians 1:13-16
Ephesians 3:1-12

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Today, we're going to begin a two part series which takes a look at two individuals, Jeremiah and Paul.

Their ministries were separated by about 650 years, and their personalities were quite different, yet they were still kindred spirits in the Lord.

What is it in a persons character that allows them to seek the Lord with all their heart and soul, and become one with Him?

What is it that makes people kindred spirits, spiritual brothers and sisters, in the Lord?

To answer these questions, let's begin by looking at what the Lord said to Jeremiah when He called him into service while still a youth. (Jeremiah 1:5)

5.   "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations."

 

Now, let's turn to Galatians 1:13-16 and listen to what Paul says about himself.

13. For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure, and tried to destroy it;

14. and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for  my ancestral traditions.

15. But when He who had set me apart, even from my mother's womb, and called me through His grace, was pleased

16. to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles,...

Do you note the similarity in understanding in the way that the Lord calls us to his service even from our mother's womb?

When Paul, or Saul, as he was known in his younger days, reflects back upon his youth and his earliest memories, he remembered that there was always a special connection between him and God.

Picture in your mind this very sensitive little boy, who accepts the will of God without question, and recognizes all the hypocrisy and evil in the world around him and refuses to become a part of it as so many of his friends had done.

He felt that he was different.

He felt a loneliness.

He felt like he was separated from other.

Nevertheless he kept crying out to God and listening to the Lord's still small voice within.

And to a young child, some of these feelings must have been very confusing, especially when adults would tell him he was wrong when he knew in his heart that he was right.

And this confusion most likely expressed itself in forms of anger and frustration.

"Why don't people listen to me?"

"Why do they do what is wrong?"

But as Paul got older and entered formal religious training, he realized that his feelings as a child, of what was right and wrong, were indeed correct.

Thus, he became even more zealous for the Lord's commandments, but he hadn't lost his anger or frustration.

And it was in this zealousness that Paul found others who thought as he did.

Probably, for the first time in his life, Paul thought he found some real friends.

And since he was among the hierarchy of the Temple, he also acquired some authority.

So when his teachers and friends and associates began talking about how the followers of Jesus were subverting the letter of the Law, he set out to put a stop to it.

Now, let's not forget that this confusion still existed in the mind of Paul.

Inside he was still this sensitive little boy, who listened to the voice of the Lord, and then there was also the scholar in him who was zealous for the letter of the Law.

There was this tug of war going on in Paul's mind; the pull of the natural innocence of a little child doing what God desires vs. the pull of form and tradition expressed by the scholars.

Thus, this confusion expressed itself violently against the Christians; that is, until that very special day upon the road to Damascus. (Acts 9:3-6)

When Paul saw the light and heard the voice, he instantly knew it was the Lord.

And over the next three days Paul pondered all these things over in his mind and realized the error of his ways, and understood that the person the Lord really wanted him to be was that sensitive little boy who simply loved the Lord with all his heart and soul and might.

And that's the same kind of person the Lord wants all of us to be.

Now let's take a look at Ephesians 3:1-12, and see if we don't gain a greater insight into what Paul is writing.

1.   For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles--

Paul found himself being persecuted in the same way he persecuted others in his anger and zealousness.

Now, however, Paul never seems to get angry at his persecutors, for he knows where they're coming from.

He only expresses the love of the Lord.

2.  if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace which was given to me for you;

3. that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief.

4.   And by referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,

5.   which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spint;

6.   to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel,

7. of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God's grace which was given to me according to the working of His power.

This was totally counter to the formal teachings Paul had received.

The Law expresses a way of working your way into heaven, which is really impossible, while God's grace makes it all possible; but not only for the Jews, but now also for the Gentiles.

And in this, we still hear the voice of that very sensitive child speaking forth the truth.

8.   To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ,

9.   and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things;

10. in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.

11. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord,

12. in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.

So, who are we?

I know God would never create any of us for the sole purpose of going to hell.

He created us to be His innocent, sensitive and loving children, even before He formed us in our mother's womb.

But somewhere along the way, most of us have hidden this little child in us.

Even most of our very young children have turned away from the face of innocence when they see they gain materially by being self indulgent.

And self indulgence can never be a kindred spirit in the Lord.

We need to return to our first love, and stay there.

If we think about Paul in this light, in his earlier days we would consider him to be a religious fanatic, because of his extremism.

And there are still many religious fanatics, even to this very day.

But we also have extremism in human rights, too.

Think about the anti-war people, people for the homeless and poor, minority rights, women's rights, and people on either side of the abortion issue, some of whom are just as fanatic.

And then we have the animal rights people and the environmentalists, and we see some of the same extremism beings exhibited here, too.

Most of these people are very sensitive, just as Paul was, and like Paul in his earlier days, some of these people express their frustration is forms of anger and violence.

But when Jesus Christ entered Paul's life, he changed, he softened, he was filled with God's unconditional love and compassion.

And there was only one recorded time after Paul's conversion when he lost his sense of compassion, and that was when he shook the snake off his hand into the fire (Acts 28:5)

We all might make mistakes at times, but thc most important thing is to live a consistent life in Jesus Christ, filled to overflowing with His unconditional love and compassion.

We need to allow God's love to carry us above and beyond the problems of this world, that we can see the peace to come.

We need to continue to love those who seem so hard of heart, while still working diligently to bring a little more heaven to earth each day.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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