Set Apart for God’s Use
Tonight we will be in Jeremiah chapter one and verse five. “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” Now, we've been dealing with separation this week, but separation is a very broad topic, as we all know. We've been dealing primarily with personal separation in the areas of dress, music purity, entertainment, dating, social media, and things like that. All of those are so very important since God said, “Be ye holy, for I am holy”. Another type of separation is the ecclesiastical separation. Ecclesiastical points to the church, and it speaks of our separation from both apostasy, but also erring brethren, and so the idea is that “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump”. To maintain purity in doctrine and practice we don't preach for erring groups, and we don't have them preach for us. Further, we don't join hands in any effort, because it's a matter of endorsement if we do that and could cause weaker brethren to think that we agree with those folks that we might join hands with. We can't join the World Council of Churches, you understand, the National Council of Churches, the National Association of Evangelicals, or the local Ministerial Association, and on and on it goes. If we do so, the” little leaven” will get in the lump. A third type of separation is God separating, or setting apart, some of his people for full-time ministry. It's a separation unto a task, unto a purpose. We want to look at a number of things, but look first with me at a word study of some terms. It's always good to get your terminology right at the beginning. In the Bible, separation is tied to the words sanctify and holy. In fact, the Hebrew words translated holy are often translated “sanctified”.The word sanctify is used 106 times in the Old Testament, and 31 times in the New Testament. It means, “to set apart unto God for his purpose”. It means taking something that was dedicated to something else and dedicating it to the Lord. It talks of someone who had other plans, but God came along and set them apart to his work. In the Bible, they sanctified the firstborn, and they sanctified the priests. They sanctified the mountains, they sanctified the offerings and furnishings and instruments of the tabernacle. His people were sanctified, and on and on it goes. So, we have the word “sanctify”, which means “to set apart unto God for his purpose”. The word holy is used 400 times in the Old Testament, and 12 times of believers in the New Testament. Listen to this definition. It means, “to set apart to God and separate from that which is unholy”. Our holy God is looking for willing men and women to yield themselves to him that they may be set apart to be used in full-time, Christian service. In fact, every single Christian ought to surrender his life to God to be used in some way. Thank God for every Christian that does that, but then in some lives, there comes a day and an hour when God calls them, to set them apart for a special work, a particular ministry. That happened to Jeremiah. God set him apart to be a prophet. I wonder if he would be pleased tonight to set somebody apart to the ministry. I grew up in Northwest Ohio in a small town. My wife grew up in the same town. I was a bust kid in the the church. This was all the way back in the 1950s, and the church that my mother attended had a bus, so I was a bus kid. My dad was lost. He never served God as I was growing up, and he wouldn't let Mom go to church, although Mom was saved. If Mom went to church, like she sometimes did on Sunday mornings, he wouldn't talk to her all that day, and sometimes it would carry into the next two or three days. So, he would punish her if she went to church, so they sent me on the bus to make sure that I got to be in church. Mom read to me from the Bible and Egermeier’s Bible story book and taught me at home. I'm so very thankful for that, as you could imagine! At age eight I went to church camp, and at church camp I received Jesus Christ as my Savior. I'll never forget it! I sat over on this side from the pulpit, maybe two or three or four rows back in an old outside tabernacle. The preacher preached, and I came under conviction. I made my way out into the aisle and came forward, and Steve Burkett prayed with me at the altar. I'll never forget that! He showed me how to be saved, and that's really meant something to me. Praise be to God! At 17 I rededicated my life to Christ. After high school, I went away to a secular college to be a math teacher like my father wanted me to be. I had a walk with God. You better have a walk with God in this wicked world! After my third year of college, I married Shirley, my hometown sweetheart, who had graduated and become an RN. The New Years after we got married, we had another couple over to our apartment to pray in the New Year. It was about 12:30 in the morning now, into January the 1st of 1973. As we had been praying and I was looking at Scripture, I sensed God calling me to preach. I can remember the chair I was sitting in, and I can remember the whole scene. God was speaking to my heart, and he set me apart that night to be a preacher of the word of God. I asked him, “Show me a confirmation of this, Lord,” and the verse that he almost immediately gave me was IThessalonians 5:24. “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” I knew I couldn't do it, but “...he will do it.” That was a confirmation. We prayed that night, and I surrendered to preach God's Word. I remember it like it was yesterday. Could I preach yet? Not a lick! I mean, not a lick! I had no training for that. I tried one time in 1973. After this point, my pastor gave me an opportunity. He gave me the whole Sunday night service, but I flopped horribly. I remember going to the pulpit that night and I thought, “Man, I I'm gonna knock ‘em dead! I know I've got 40 to 45 minutes worth of material here.” I stood up and began to preach, and within 14 or 15 minutes I'd gone through everything that I had prepared. I mean, it was a disgusting thing and I didn't ever want to do it again! I remember feeling like I had failed so badly, that I didn't ever want to do it again! There were no preachers in my family. I didn't know what my dad would say. I told him, “God wants me to preach.” Though he was a hard worker and loved us very much, he was a cusser and a smoker, and he didn't like church. He wanted me to be all set financially, be a teacher and all of that. However, I loved God, and I wanted to please God. I had regular devotions, but after a while they became mechanical. Then, I remembered that I read this verse that changed my life. Psalm 119:97, “O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day.” That first part grabbed me when I prayed that day. I remember telling God that I couldn't truthfully say that I loved the Bible. I asked God, “Lord, would you please give me a love for your word like the Psalmist had? Where I come to the Bible and it's not just perfunctory. I'm just going through the motions, and I'm reading it because I have to read it, I feel compelled, it's a duty. I want to be more than that. I want to have a love for your word. I want it to be a magnet to me, that when I come home from work I'm going to run to the Word. When I get up in the morning I want to run to the Word. I want to have that kind of love for thy Law!” He did it! In a notebook I started to log what God was teaching me. I started a study, and God was beginning to teach me things so quickly that I started to log them, page after page after page. I started to grow very quickly. I asked the Lord, “Lord, I know I'm way behind time. I mean, I'm 19- 20 years old and I hardly know your book. I haven't loved it, and Lord I want you to yet cause me to love it, and cause me to learn it. Lord, I'm making up for lost time. I need to learn it quickly!” He began to teach me the Word. I gathered envelopes and labeled them with topics and filed articles that I clipped, in preparation to be a preacher one day. I set goals to read so many pages in books every year. By the way, that's a great idea, especially for preachers that have to feed the flock of God. I would set page numbers of how many pages I would read. One year was 2,000 pages. I wasn't a real fast reader, and I thought, “Wow! I don't know if I'll ever make it!” Oh, I went over! That next year I set the goal a little higher. I remember having my log of all the books that I read and how many pages, because I wanted to do it on purpose, and I wanted to do it methodically. I finished my fourth year in math and geography to honor my father and graduated from college in 1975. God started using me in preaching. I preached my second message on September the 14th of 1975. I preached my third message just three days later. After fasting and prayer for my father, I got a phone call that God had allowed my father to have a stroke. I immediately changed plans for the day. Shirley and I ran home, and I begged God, “God, don't let my daddy die and go to Hell!” God was good to answer my prayer. I know that prayer doesn't always get answered, but he was good to answer that prayer, and three days later my father received Christ, and his life totally changed. Then, I went back to Bible College, made up for my Bible deficiency, and got my master's degree in four summers. God is just looking for men and women who are willing for him to use them. It's not what we do; it's what he does through us. When missionaries come home from the field have you ever wondered, “Who will replace the missionaries coming home? Where are we going to get missionaries?” When pastors retire or leave their church, where will the next pastor come from? This is a problem even with assistant pastors. Where will the school teachers and secretaries and pastors’ wives and evangelists come from? School students, young adults, and middle-aged folks, have you ever surrendered to God in your heart and said at a moment of time, “Lord, I'm making myself available to go where you want me to go and do what you want me to do.” Can you imagine what would happen in our world if every person, just in the group that I'm looking at right now, would surrender to be what God wants them to be? Now, he would not call everyone into the ministry, I'm confident of that, but if every one of us would surrender, what could God do through us? What if young people in this place, maybe teenagers, juniors, college students, or college age, what if they got on fire for God and got a love for his Book and wanted to be used of God in some way and surrendered themselves to God? I believe God would do what he did in the Bible and set them apart for a special purpose. He separates to the ministry, he separates to a specific purpose, his purpose. That's what happened in Antioch in Acts 13:2. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” It was time to go, and he separated them. That was in a local church. We’re in a local church tonight. You have a local church back home. The surrendered men came to God in prayer and fasted. Now that's diligent! You don't go without meals unless you're hungry, unless you're sincere. They came to God in prayer and fasting, and God, our God, did a wonderful work of separating two men, our first missionaries, for that mission work. I believe God can do that again. I really believe it! When I'm out there and I'm trying to find a pastor or an assistant pastor to help a church, or I hear of missionaries coming back and nobody to go to replace them, I get burdened for this type of a message. I get burdened for this type of a group. I get burdened that young men and women would see the need and would see a God who loves them and wants to take their gifts and their talents and multiply them and touch lives for time and eternity. That can happen we believe it can happen. “Sanctify it wholly” means “to set apart for a special purpose”. Secondly, how can you respond when you sense God prompting you about the ministry? Well, we have examples in the Bible of how you can respond. Look first at Isaiah chapter 6 and verse 8, that familiar passage. Isaiah volunteered to be sent, and indeed, he was! It says in Isaiah 6 and verse 8, “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” Who is going to go for us, for the Lord, and for the work of the ministry? Who will go? Isaiah stood forward and said, “Send me! Separate me! I'll go!” That's what we need, some young folks to do that, some young men to do that, some young men maybe who just came to Bible College just to get a little bit of Bible College and go back home, but God begins to work in their heart, and they see that they need more training, and that they can be sharper for the Lord if they will just get the training, and they stick it out. They come back, they learn more of the Word of God and more of how to do the ministry, and they become effective servants for Christ. If person after person refuses to give their life over to him, to go where he wants them to go and be the preachers that he wants them to be, or the wife that he wants them to be in the ministry, or the teacher that he wants them to be, where are they going to come from? They're not coming from the JW's. They're not going to come from Islam. Not for what we need to get done! They're going to come from this church and churches like this church all over our country, and therefore, we need to have that that burden for the lost and for the young people and for other people. Sometimes a man is 20 or 30. I've heard of men surrendering to God at 40, even in their 50s, to be used of God if they haven't disqualified themselves. When God called young Samuel, he said, “Speak, for thy servant heareth.” He responded to the Lord, “I am listening, Lord. What do you want to say to me? I have an ear that's tuned to you, dear God.” Samuel wanted to know what God wanted to say to him. Do you want to know what God wants to say to you? Do you want to know? It's important that you do. He listened for the voice of God. Are you listening for the voice of God to speak to you? Because he will do it if you listen. We also read of Paul. Paul saw a bright light one day that blinded him on the road to Damascus in Acts chapter 9 and verse 6. “And he trembling and astonished, said, Lord what wilt thou have me to do?” I like that question. I mean, God speaks to him, and what I don't like is that he had to blind him. Paul, a persecutor, didn't have an ear tuned to God till the bright light came, and now he knew it was God. He said, “Lord, what do you want to say to me?” That ought to be our response. We want to know what God wants to say to us. You're gifted at some trade, maybe like farming. Elijah was a dirt farmer, Amos was a cattleman,but God called them to go and prophesy. It's not beyond God to interrupt a vocation when a man says, “I want to be used of God. I'm sensing that God is doing something in my life, and I'm willing to trade that and get my training and go for God.” That's a setting apart right there. You're good at business? Several of the disciples were good at business, but Christ called them to follow him into full-time ministry, and they immediately followed him. They didn't hesitate, and we shouldn't either. God needs some people who will surrender their gifts to be used in his ministry on a full-time basis, if you haven't disqualified yourself. You might be that person tonight. It's no accident that you're here. Did you know that still today God is giving pastors, evangelists, and teachers to churches? The only question is, where will they come from? The answer is right here in this building tonight. This is the kind of group that they're going to come from, as we yield ourselves to God, and as we tune an ear to God and say, “Lord, speak for thy servant heareth.” He wants to set apart someone, maybe tonight, for the work of the ministry, launch them into their training. Maybe you've gotten some training, but you can see that you need more than what you, that what you have is insufficient for what God may have planned for you. He's prompting you to surrender to that “more ministry” and that “more training” tonight. Maybe you already have your training, but you need to have some experience under a pastor, and so you go to your pastor and express that to him, and see what he says. He'll counsel you. Will you pray specifically tonight? Will you pray like these men prayed, “Speak for thy servant heareth. Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? Lord, here am I send me? Of everybody, I want to be sent! Lord, separate me!” and expect him to answer your prayer? Number three. We also need to look at how not to respond when you sense God prompting you in the ministry. Go to Exodus chapter 4 and verse 10. The Bible tells us of those who rebelled or doubted or fought against God and against the call of God and being separated unto the ministry. We read about Moses. Remember what a great man Moses ended up to be? At first God tapped on Moses’ shoulder for the task of leading Israel out of Egypt, and when he did, Moses bristled. He said, “I can't do that! You're asking me to do something that I can't do!” Exodus chapter 4 and verse 10, “And Moses said unto the LORD, O my LORD, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou has spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” Now verse 12, “Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.” God assures him, “I'll take care of it. Those who I call, I prepare. I will help you and I'll put the words in your mouth.” Verses 13 and 14 say, “And he said, O my LORD, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart.” You won't win the argument with the Lord that “you're not able”. Trust me, you won't if he calls you to do something he knows that you can do, because he wouldn't ask you to do it if you couldn’t. He knows what he wants to do in your life, and you will be amazed at what God will do in your life, if you'll let him do it. He would amaze you if you'd give him a chance. In Jeremiah chapter 1 the same thing happened to Jeremiah. In verses 4 and 5 we read, “Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” Now looking at verse 6, “Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.” In other words, “I am a child when it comes to speaking.” Looking at verse 7, “But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.” Skip down to verse 9, “Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.” God will supernaturally make you able to do what he wants you to do if you will just make yourself available to him. At age three I couldn't talk well. Neighbors all got around me, because they loved to hear me talk and make fun. I was “Dutch”; that's what they called it back then. At age twelve I was in a Christmas play and at the most important part of the play, when you want people to really hear the Gospel story, I fell off the stool. Everybody laughed, even though it was supposed to be a serious moment. In high school, I tripped coming into English class one day, and I remember the teacher said to Shirley, “You know, I never saw what you see in him.” I made the National Honor Society in my junior year of high school. My history teacher was the football coach. I was in the band, even though he wanted me to be on the football team. To express his dismay he said, “I don't know how you ever made the National Honor Society. It was a put-down. I went to secular college to study mathematics. That is not the norm if you're going to be used of God, that's what I'm saying. Some people think, “Well, some people have a golden road to ministry; they grew up in preacher's home.” No, not everybody has that, but God can still use us. God wanted to use me to preach the Word. I tried to argue when he spoke to me, but he knew what he wanted for my life. He'll encourage you that you can do whatever he calls you to do. All you have to do is put your faith and trust in him. What about Jonah? The other way not to respond to God's call is to run away from God. Not only to doubt it, or or refuse it, or or say, “I can't do it,” but to run away as Jonah did when God called him. Think of it! God says, “I want you to go to Nineveh and preach the Word.” Nineveh's one way, and he goes the other way. He runs from God when God calls him. He not only didn't want to go, he rebelled, and rebelled forcefully. He ran from the will of God, but we know that God found him. God's got a direct line to find you; you can't run from God if there's a call on your life, or God wants to set you apart. There's no place you can run. I wonder if someone here is fighting against God. I wonder if someone is running from the call of God. You ought to run to the call of God, to be used of God. Why don't you put up the white flag? “Lord, I surrender to you. You've been trying to get my attention quite a while, and Lord, I want you to do whatever you want to do in my life. What is it that you want me to do?” We also need to see what to do if God sets you apart for a special work. First, we sense his call. That's number one. He wants to set us apart to a special purpose, and in a service like this, we sense that stirring in our being. I don't know how to explain it, except to say that God stirs us up and lets us know that he's got something special for us. What an honor that the Almighty God would want to use me, or you! What an honor! Not only do we sense his call, but then we need to be trained. You're not trained for all that you'll face in the ministry because you've been saved for 10 years, or because you grew up in a church. You need Bible training, doctrinal training; you need relationship training, where you learn how to work with people; you need training on music, and broader practical ministry training, and on and on we could go. You need to be toughened for the ministry, because you will take shots in the ministry and you need to be steeled for that. You need the discipline to follow through with a responsibility and not quit. Even if it gets hard, you're not going to quit, and so you need that kind of training. When we talk of going to college, some fear the studies, some fear the finances, some fear that they can't do the ministry. Some worry about where they will I go when it’s all over, or what they’re going to do when they graduate. Well, there's a God in Heaven that you can talk to and he can direct you. If God wants to use you, and you are willing to give yourself to it, the teachers here at Fairhaven Baptist College will help you to learn, show you how to study more effectively. Some young men come to college weak in English, or weak in reading, or how to study. That's all right; you can learn! Now if you're in high school, you ought to do all that you can to learn it there, so that you're prepared for college, but don't let that stop you from getting your training. As far as finances, this is one of the lowest costing colleges in America, and it offers work scholarships and has contacts for jobs off-campus. I didn't pay for any of my children's college tuition. You say, “Oh, that was a terrible thing!” No, I wanted them to learn to appreciate what they had. I helped them with a few things along the way, but I didn't pay for their tuition and room and board. I taught them to raise some money, go to college, apply for scholarships, and see what the Lord will do. Leave it in the Lord's hands, apply for work scholarships, see what the Lord will do, and watch God work. They did exactly what I told them, and it worked. Now they are trained and being effectively used by God. They did it; you can do it. You say, “I don't have any money!” Do you have faith? God's got the money! Do you have ambition? God will provide; you have to believe it. Training will give you the tools and the confidence to be able to do the work of the ministry. Chart your course, starting tonight, to get your training. Come at the invitation and talk to the Lord, and then go by the information desk and fill out an information card for the college, showing that you are interested. Put some feet to your dreams and what God prompts you to do. Thirdly, God sends you through a local church as in Acts 13. We don't just launch out into the ministry on our own. If we follow the pattern of the New Testament, we'll seek counsel and the endorsement of our pastor and the church before going out. We've had people in our church try both ways. Guess how they're doing? Those that try to go out without the endorsement of the local church are floundering. There are those that go out under the local church and God is with them, because they did it in a Biblical way. Let me close now. Separation is tied to sanctification, being set apart for a special purpose. That calling is a holy calling, where you are God's man or woman, and he's using you as a special vessel for a special work. You will know that God has set you apart to do what you otherwise could not, and otherwise would not, have done. You'll know that you're set apart. I heard my son tell a story. He has the old-fashioned envelope system and budgets and pays bills. He's got an envelope for music lessons for his children, he's got another one for utilities, and on and on it goes. Every pay day he sets apart so much money in each one of these envelopes so the money will be there when it's needed. Now, suppose that he has an impulse to buy a new boat and he doesn't have a new boat envelope, and so he drains the funds that are in the music lesson envelope and the utilities envelope and some other envelopes to buy the boat? Now that money was set aside for music lessons and for utilities and it won't be there. It was squandered on a whim, and when the music lesson bill comes, there's nothing there to use. That's a picture of too many Christians today. One day they surrendered to the Lord. One day they were prompted to give it all to God; their life was set apart for whatever he wanted them to do, but then they got involved, and they wanted their new boat; they wanted their gadgets; they wanted their lifestyle, their goals, their friends, and their music. They wanted to have their car, so they bought the car, and they bought the truck. They had to have a job to pay for that. We all know that they have to have insurance and all the repairs for that car. It came time to be used by God and to get the training, but they were wrapped into their job, and they were afraid to give up the job. So they stuck by the job, and they failed to keep their heart with all diligence and get their training. Their energy, and their youth, and their money, and their purity was all used up. It was all spent. It was set aside, but then it was spent. Could I ask you, young man, has God been trying to get your attention to surrender to preach the Word? You say, “I can't preach!” I couldn’t either; that has nothing to do with it. Does God want you to do it at some point in the future? He'll train you how to do it. What will it take in your life to break your will? I've always been this kind of person: I don't want to go through the school of hard knocks; I don't want God to have to take a big club and club me over the head to get me to do what he wants me to do. I want to have an ear tuned to him and find out what he wants me to do. I want to be yielded to him; let him tell me what he wants me to do, and I say, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth. Lord, send me. I don't want to be beat up!” Young lady, has God been trying to get you to surrender your gifts to him, to use in full time ministry, to prepare yourself to be a preacher's wife, a teacher, a missionary? What will it take in your life to break your will, to make you say, “Not my will, but thine be done, oh Lord.” What are you afraid of? College? Why don't you surrender to come to Fairhaven this fall? That's pretty specific! It's time to quit having a “pie-in-the-sky” out there; it's time to nail something down. Why don't you think about that? Why don't you say, “God, would you want me to be here this fall and become a trained instrument, effective in your hands?” Step out tonight by faith, therefore, and say, “Lord, send me.” Let him sanctify you, or shall we say, set you apart for a special purpose.