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Monday, October 8, 2012

What Is a Christian Calling?

2 Thessalonians 1:11 (ESV)
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power

It wasn't long after becoming a Christian that I heard of Christians being called. They were called into the "ministry" or called to be missionaries but that was the extent of anyone's calling. Of course, this did not bother me since I received a calling into the ministry. I thought that I was just special. I believe that to be more than a little ostentatious of myself now.

I know that the above verse can mean no more than being called out of the darkness into the light. It can mean that our calling is simply to be a Christian but I see it as more. I just don't believe that people are saved to live within certain parameters of objective right and wrong. That sort of faith is too passive for me. If God is active in my life He must have a calling for me and everyone else.

The above verse is to the Christian community called the Thessalonians. They were not all called to be missionaries or preachers. Their calling certainly had something to do with their being called as Christians but God's pattern throughout the Bible indicates that there is much more than this.

We are given spiritual gifts. These gifts are used for the glory of God. Everyone receives his or her own spiritual gifts. Not all people possess the same gifts. This is very peculiar. This means that each person operates differently as a believer because he or she has been gifted to act in that way.

This giftedness is both an ability to act and a calling to do so. The Bible encourages believers to use their gifts. Surely, this cannot be randomly done. Their must be some coordination by the Holy Spirit.

Gifts are given without regard to the profession of the receiver. The gift of prophecy or leadership does not necessarily come to preachers. They may come to any profession.

Yes, I understand that the Bible records those who will be set aside for the work but does that deal with calling or merely funding? Paul worked among these Thessalonians as a tent maker for a time. Did he forget his calling or was he still acting in his calling? I believe the latter. His calling didn't change but his funding did. This is why preachers can preach without other jobs. They were set aside in their funding but not their calling. Their calling comes first.

So, an engineer can be gifted in teaching and used within the profession to teach others who God is. A doctor can be gifted in mercy and practices that mercy with such compassion that the patients see God. A businesswoman can be gifted in giving so that her giving presents Christ who gave His life for others.

And each one acts within his or her own calling even though the professions are very different.

And it doesn't stop here for there are day to day activities which glorify God as the individual sees through the gift what he or she should do in that day. The will of God is revealed as the calling is realized in that person's life.

Calling can be specific as to location or employer or profession but it does not depend upon any of these things to be fulfilled. God places us within certain professions to spread His glory to all creation. He does the same thing in location.

The Christian who does not know his calling does not know who he is. He, therefore, cannot say no to things which are outside of his calling. I have seen many people become preachers whom I thought were never fulfilling their calling. They were devote believers who did not know that their calling could be fulfilled in other professions. They are miserable in their positions because they are unable to fulfill their calling. They preach without passion because that is not what they are supposed to do. They don't know what else to do because they have a passion for God and that seems to be the only option for people who are so passionate in their faith.

Unfortunately, they do more damage to the Christian faith because they are not acting within their calling. They typically complain about the people whom they are called to equip to do the work of the ministry. Their sermons are dull because they are not delivering what they were called to deliver.

I am not trying to demote the professional ministers here. I am trying to get people to understand that all others have a calling that is just as valid as those who are professional preachers. I used to think that people separated their professions from their acts of faith. In other words, I thought that people financed their "ministry" as engineers, teachers, doctors and the like. I didn't realize that they were the ministers at the firm, the hospital, the school or the factory.

Thus, being worthy of your calling takes on a more definite responsibility. I am to be that person who exercises my spiritual gift wherever I am. It acts without respect to my profession but my profession is indeed a part of my calling. My profession determines the people who will receive my ministry.

I have struggled with those who have "left the ministry." I have felt that they either were never called and should never have entered the ministry or that they were being unfaithful by leaving the ministry. I realize that I was wrong. The calling does not change when a person is no longer a professional minister. God acts His will on that person to go where he or she must to fulfill their calling.

I know who I am because of my calling. I am called to teach. I would have liked the gift of prophecy because I believe that prophets are called to bring a people back to God. I don't have that gift no matter how many spiritual gift surveys I have manipulated to indicate that I did. I will never be able to glorify God pretending to be called to do something that I am not.

Understanding my calling gives me rest. I can say no to things that do not fall within it. I don't have to run from place to place trying to exercise spiritual gifts in a spiritual way. (I know that I should show mercy but I don't have the spiritual gift. Thus, I can act with mercy but without trying to do so as if it is a spiritual gift. I can rest in knowing that it is not my gift and that God may not be seen spiritually through that gift. God will be seen through my teaching.)

I know who I am. I pray that others know who they are too. I pray they understand and act within their calling so that they will be proved worthy of it.

4 comments:

high-expressions said...

This verse of 2 Th 1:11 is variedly interpreted. One rendering of the verse is along the line as given in the ESV, as quoted by Ps Prentis. My rendering is this, that a "you" be inserted at the second of the verse, as is the case of a few translations, making it reads as follows:

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and YOU may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power

Without the "you", easily, it is interpreted as it is ALL God's part - God to make you worthy; God to fulfill every resolve for good; and God to fulfill every work of faith.

The KJV (and a few other translations) uses the word, "count" instead of "make" (as in, make you worthy of His calling). I believe the intended word is the word, count. In scriptural interpretation, there is a defined meaning to the word, "count".

Now, there is a difference between being worthy and being counted worthy. Foremost, no one is worthy of salvation. Entry into salvation is never about one’s worthiness; everyone is NOT worthy – all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There is no issue of judgment of God as to worthiness at salvation, since everyone is unworthy. The unworthiness of men, at salvation, is consequence of past action. The judgment in vv4-5 of this 2 Th 1, should be viewed with this in mind: Judgment is of 2 types; one, in deciding if something done or said, is right or wrong, and two, a judgment call, meaning it is deciding on a matter which has not come to pass; predictive in nature.

Therefore, what is reasonable in exegesis, is that Paul had had indication from God that God was of the judgment (judgment call) that some of the Thessalonians would do good. In other words, in the way the brethrens live, NOT that they are worthy, yet in the way they lived, God qualified them or God counted them worthy of His Kingdom. To count here, therefore, is to mean that actually the brethrens were NOT worthy, but God considered them worthy.

If now we can understand that Paul and his team were praying for God to count the Thessalonians worthy of their calling, what is the calling in the verse? Implicitly, Ps Prentis referred to that calling, as the Christian calling, by his asking of the question, as in the title of the entry, "What is a Christian calling?"

Is there such a thing as a salvation call and service call? If there is, are they completely separate or detached? Or is it they, though, can loosely be viewed as such, but are nevertheless, inevitably bound together, in, if we like, a collective Christian calling? In other words, is it generally acceptable to have a salvation call, with no service call?

When we receive the understanding that the works of Christ Jesus, with His death and resurrection, is one of redemption, we can better understand what the Christian calling is all about. Redemption is of the meaning to return to the initial or original state before corruption or giving over or The Fall. Revelation that I received is that the redemptive works of Christ cover spiritual, bodily, and works dimensions.

Before The Fall, Man was spiritually whole, bodily capable of escaping decay (through taking of the fruit from the tree of life, which Man could have taken, had Adam and Eve NOT taken the fruit from the knowledge of good and evil which God forbade them to take, and which they took in that Fall), and he was with works/service unto the Lord (Man's assignment then was to look after the huge Garden of Eden).

Cont...

high-expressions said...

COnt. from above

And so, when it is about redemption and redemptive works, (possibly) 3 dimensions of redemption are being addressed. The Fall affected Man spiritually, bodily, and his works/service unto the Lord. I have written an article on the works of redemption of our Lord; the link is this, if you want to read it: http://high-expressions.blogspot.sg/2011/04/works-of-redemption-by-our-lord.html

The Christian calling that has to be looked at, from angle of what Jesus' redemptive works, is about. Essentially, when salvation call is referred to, the thing that comes to mind is that of being spiritually made vivacious (alive, from a greatly weakened state) – spiritual redemption.

Is there redemption of the physical or bodily? Yes, that too, but full redemption of the bodily is NOT to be had in our mortal life or earthly life. In other words, Man must still die the mortal death; full redemption only comes after death, when we are resurrected to take on an incorruptible body.

Works/service redemption is part and parcel of the Redemption, too. And so, a salvation call is with a service call. Eph 2:8-10 said this:

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Overly grace preachers often quote verses 8-9, but NOT verse 10. But verse 10 is part of the whole text, linked by the conjunctive, “For”. We are saved for works. The service call is in the salvation call.

All of us are unworthy before entry into salvation, there is no issue or question of judging, for everyone is the same, and it was by grace every one of us enters into salvation, as said by Eph 2:8-9. However, God wants to count us worthy of His Kingdom (2 Th 1:5); and He has given us what we need, and wants to help us to so that He could count us worthy of His Kingdom (2 Pet 1:3). 2 Pet 1:2-11, putting it here, now, flows wonderfully with what I want to say:

2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the KNOWLEDGE of God and of Jesus our Lord.

3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our KNOWLEDGE of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these {KNOWLEDGE} he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed FROM HIS PAST SINS {Here is a verse supporting the understanding that at entry into salvation, only PAST SINS are forgiven!}.

10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your CALLING and election sure. For if you do these things, YOU WILL NEVER FALL, 11 AND YOU WILL RECEIVE A RICH WELCOME into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


COnt...

high-expressions said...

COnt. from above

That God wants to count us worthy, and He has given us everything we need for life and godliness, why was there still the big deal of Paul and his team interceding and praying for the Thessalonians or believers?

There can be several reasons, but one I want to mention here, is that Man is with volition. You now appreciate why, I inserted the “you” into the second part of the 2 Th 1:11 verse. Paul was praying that the believers, by their volition, may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by God’s power.

From here, too, we can see what the Christian calling looks like: to will to fulfill every resolve for good, and to will to do every work of faith, with the help of God’s powers. Yes, God is sovereign, which means if He wants, He can force you to it (Well, in a way, Jonah was forced to go the way God wanted, and to do what God had wanted him to do, to preach repentance unto the Ninevites), but it is the NOT the norm. The norm is still you have to, by your own volition, love God, and so, align your heart to that of God, embrace His holiness, and do only that which is good in God’s eyes, and work or serve Him, by faith, with love, and in righteousness.

The context is important in biblical interpretation, and for this instance, we can see from the earlier verses, particularly, verse 3, how we live our lives, matters, and is visible to God and to men. 2 Th 1:3 –

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.

Paul said that they (Paul and his team) ought always to thank God for the Thessalonians brethrens, and rightly so, because the brethrens’ faith was growing more and more, and their love for one another was also increasing.

Now, Paul was here revealing to us, that even in the early history of the church, when people entered into salvation, they were NOT immediately with “full” faith or that they were perfect, in that they immediately were at their full measure of love for one another. Paul clearly painted a picture of faith growing over time, and love, also growing over time. All those preaching by the overly grace preachers that upon entry into salvation, one becomes so perfect that he has the full mind of Christ, or that he becomes fully righteous that he does NOT need to sweat over the need to be living righteous, are too skewed.

Here, we can see Paul was consistent with the other disciple apostles of Jesus, in believing that a believer need to grow over time, in terms of faith, righteousness and holiness, even as, in identity-wise, a believer is accorded as one with faith, one with righteousness and holiness. In short, the correct understanding to be derived from here (including the many verses from the exhortations by the other disciple apostles, like Peter and James), is “The test of the pudding is in its eating” applies.

In other words, identity is NOT enough; one has to live it out. The right question to ask is: Where is it showing? It should be able to be seen or perceived by people; and this was what happened; people have seen and perceived such growth of faith and brotherly love of the Thessalonians brethrens, that news got to Paul; that the Thessalonians brethrens were true to the faith, and truly were a good testimony of the faith. The fervent walk of the brethrens proved it all, and for that, Paul expressed that they (he and His team) were thankful and ought to be thankful to God.

Cont...

high-expressions said...

COnt...

As to whether or NOT, to fulfill one’s calling or Christian calling, one must necessarily be serving in some full-time capacity or ministry or be engaged only in a certain profession, this thing, Ps Prentis has explained well, that it is NOT necessarily so. Ps Prentis also touched on, one cannot be doing everything and anything, too; the best is to come to the place of knowing the area(s) the Lord would like you to be working on; afterall, when it is service, it is to be as unto the Lord. While it is right that Christian calling is NOT MERELY living within a certain parameters of objective right or wrong (using Ps Prentis’ words), the Christian calling is a journey of redemption with a holy God, conforming to righteousness and justice of God is base.

Another necessary understanding is that we have to know we are in a war between God and the Devil; there is the one side, the holy God, and there is the other, the evil Satan. Putting it in another way, there are 2 Kingdoms at war. It is either you are for God, or you are against God; and if you are against God, you are swinging over the other side. How you live tells on you, which side you are on. The base question is, are you, yourself, subscribing to the ways of your Kingdom; in other words, are you submitted to God’s rule in your living? The kingdom of the world is NOT to be taken by the Kingdom of God by force; it is to be taken through the revelation of Christ Jesus and God, and the Kingdom’s ways and rule. You may NOT be a preacher; you may NOT be a spiritually gifted healer, and you may NOT be great Christian leader, but if your life reveals Jesus and God, and the Kingdom’s ways and rule, you are, firstly, a true citizen of the Kingdom, and secondly, you are engaged in the advancing of the Kingdom, for people can see God in you. And so, your life, is a service unto the Lord, in His revealed desire that all men be saved or cross over into the Kingdom. In this sense, even a housewife, in what she does for the home and family, for the community she lives in, can be walking in a Christian calling, honored by God. If you live out that life according to the prescription in the Word (2 Pet 1:3), you can be counted worthy of His calling.


Anthony Chia, high.expressions