19 May 2013
Being a part of Hallmark Baptist Church means that, at some point, we are a part of sending out those who have answered a call from God to go to the uttermost to take people the gospel. This month in particular we have the opportunity to send off three families that have answered this call. We know of many more families that we have sent out and continue to support as well. It is an important part of church life to send out people to others for the furtherance of God's kingdom. From the beginning God has called out people for specific tasks to accomplish specific goals. As we take time today to honor these that are going out let us also take time to discern our own calling in the Christian Life.
It may seem odd to compare the calling of the missionary to the calling of the average member of the local church, but nevertheless we need to do so. It is true that the decision to go across the globe is different than the decision to move down the street, but both are called to "go." It is true that it is financial difficult, at times, to be dependent on the offerings of other people rather than a regular type of pay check, but nevertheless it still is true that Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above (Jas 1:17). It may be true that we are not educated like missionaries or pastors, yet we all use the same Bible given to us from God.
The truth of the Christian Life is that we all have a calling. We all have a purpose in the kingdom of God. We all must find our place in the great commission (Matt 28 or Acts 1:8) and we all must discern the giftings we have been given to aid us in this calling (see 1 Cor 12ff). For all have been called, and the Bible tells us to consider that call: For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Cor 1:26ff)
This morning we are going to take a few moments to look at calling in the Bible and see how God is still calling us even today.
Our Calling is God Ordained
In the first chapter of the book of Jeremiah we have one of the most famous passages about calling in the Bible. It is the calling of Jeremiah the prophet:
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations." (Jer 1:5)
There are few things we need to notice about this passage. The first thing to notice is that a calling from God is just that: a calling from God. For us to consider our calling we must remember that God is the one who called us in the first place. We cannot respond to God unless he first called to us. A great example of that is the life of Samuel, whose mother we studied last week. As a child Samuel grew up in the Temple and one night he thought he heard Eli calling to him, but in fact it was the Lord. God initiated the work that he was going to have Samuel do in his life.
God ordains the calling that we have in our life and will see us through that calling. The passage in 1 Samuel concludes with this verse: "And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground." (1 Sam 3:19) God indeed called out this boy, but as the boy kept to that calling God never left him. That means that God sustains the calling He gives. We also see this in Jeremiah's life. A few verses down we have the Lord responding to a Jeremiah in protest:
Then I said, "Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth." But the Lord said to me,
"Do not say, 'I am only a youth';
for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
declares the Lord."
Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me,
"Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.
See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to break down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant." (Jer 1:6-10)
Jeremiah was afraid to go through with the calling of God, but God answered Him, as He answered all of us, that He, God, was the one to empower, the one to fear, the one that would provide him the capacity to complete the call. It is the same for us, even though we are not prophets like Jeremiah, we have been placed in certain places to accomplish a calling from God that only we can accomplish. Therefore, we must trust in the one who calls us that He knows better than we do of what we are capable.
Our Calling Requires our Response
However divine the call is in our lives God still allows us to be obedient to Him or to be disobedient. Whether this call is for a lifetime or the everyday callings we have moment by moment, we all can choose to obey or disobey them. What we must do is try to respond as the prophet Isaiah did in Isaiah 6:8 "And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?' Then I said, 'Here I am! Send me.'"
The response of Isaiah should be the response of all of us. When God calls us to a specific purpose (which He does more than we are willing to acknowledge) are answer should be a resounding: "Yes Lord" or "Send Me." In the presence of God, and understanding his sinful and forgiven nature at that place, Isaiah heard the call of God and knew there was not other choice, he must tell God he is the man for the job. He did not wait for the outline of the call, which might discourage him considering his life. He did not phone a friend to see what they thought. He did not research all the other callings to find the best fit for him. He heard the call and he responded.
Our own reality is that we live in a society that preaches self above all else. We say, "Watch out for no.1," but in reality we totally forget that the number one in our life is not ourselves, but God. Christ cannot merely be our savior without also being our Lord and when the Lord calls we have to answer. It is the only responsible thing to do. We must have the tenacity of Isaiah and Jeremiah we see here as well as the resolve of Peter and John, who in Acts 4:19-20 say, "But Peter and John answered them, 'Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.'"
These men all responded to the call of God in their lives. We must listen to the divine call in our lives and follow the example of these men and follow it at all costs.
Our Calling is Affirmed by the Church
A necessary question may be arising in your mind at this point. We may concede that all calls come from God and that it is our responsibility to follow that call. This is all well and good as long as you have discerned that God has indeed called. So how do we determine the calling of God? This is an important question for many have attempted the work of God apart from His calling and have found dire results.
Though prayer is the main way to know of the calling God has on our lives, it is also the church that aids in discerning our calling. God has chosen to work through His church throughout history. It is the church that gathers in Acts 15 in Jerusalem to hold a council about circumcision. Here the church, the elders, and the apostles work together to discern God's will in this matter. God also utilizes the church in discerning and accomplishing his call upon people's lives.
Acts 13:1-3 exhibits this:
Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
We see this affirmation of the church of the call on Barnabas and Saul for some of the greatest missionary endeavors of all time. God could have pulled Paul and Barnabas aside and told them to go, he had done it with Paul before (see Acts 9). However, he chose to work through the local church to affirm their call and to send them out.
God has not changed how he affirms this calling. When we come to answer the call of God alongside the church, we find that God has been working in other's lives to help us know our calling. If we have questions about our calling we can take it to the church to find help and answers. It may very well be that God has been speaking to someone in the body about another who needs to do a particular work. He often works in this way. Let the church be the body that affirms, guides, and aids in completing one's calling
Our Calling Must Be Fulfilled
In conclusion, we must see that God does call us to action in this life, but He allows us the ability to obey or disobey that calling. What we must resolve is to make sure we're completing the call God has for us. 2 Peter 1:10 says, "Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble" Though this passage is saying quite a bit about salvation it also helps us understand that we must ever be seeking to confirm the calling God has in our lives.
"Calling and election" may sound redundant but it's actually a very detailed thought. Election, as we know, means to be chosen, and to be called or named among the elect is exactly what it means to be redeemed. Revelation 20:15 tells us that those who are not "named" in the Book of Life, are cast into the lake of fire, the second death.
But what confirms our election? Go back a few verses in 2 Peter 1, beginning in verse 5.
2 Peter 1
5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
Some people read about making your election sure, or "working out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12), begin to believe you must earn your salvation. But our study in Romans and other passages clearly refute this idea. As Ephesians 2:8-9 tell us salvation is by grace through faith, rather than works; so verse 10 reminds that we are created in Christ Jesus "for good works".
Likewise here in 2 Peter 1, verse 5 refers to a reason for our works, and that is given in verse 4 it is because we have received the "divine nature", the Holy Spirit which is ours through Christ. For this cause we do not work "for" our salvation, but we work "out" our salvation; allowing our lives to confirm the work of grace that faith has performed in our hearts.
So verse 5 begins the "works" that "confirm" our calling and election. To your faith add "virtue", usually meaning moral works but from a root word meaning "good children". He's saying our faith should produce children, good children, and he names our children for us Knowledge, Discipline, Perseverance, Godliness (which means holiness or purity), Kindness, and Love; these are the children of our faith. These are the works that confirm God's calling, in the life of the redeemed.
Verse 8 says that if our faith has these children, we won't be barren or unfruitful, keeping with the reproductive theme. But that a person that lacks these things is shortsighted, even blind, forgetting that he has been redeemed. So these works confirm our salvation, in our own hearts and minds. They remind us of the grace of God, and how we came to faith. Without the children of faith, we stumble in doubt and fear, shrinking from every challenge of Satan with the question, "Am I really saved"? Without confirming works, we forget what God has done for us.
The call of God is a precious thing; it should always be confirmed and followed in our lives. It should never be forsaken, forgotten, and neglected. For those who confirm the call of God with our lives, we have the promise of verse 10, "you will never stumble". 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Make your calling and election sure. Let your life and works confirm the work that God has done in your heart.