What Does It Mean to Be “Called”

Question:  What does it mean to be called?ordination

Answer:  It usually means to be selected by God to do some form of full-time ministry.  The bigger question is how that happens?  Undoubtedly God has put it on the hearts of some individuals that they are to pursue full time pastoring or missions, etc.  But this should always and will always be accompanied by gifts God gives to these individuals that are recognized by faithful members of the Body of Christ.  An example of this is Acts 13:1-3 where Paul and Barnabas are said to be called by God and through prophetic utterance the church is told to set them apart for missions ministry.  But they have already been demonstrating gifting and faithful service for years.  Can someone resist this calling or forfeit it by misconduct?  I think so.  Paul said he labored to maintain faithful ministry lest he be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27).

In one sense every Christian is called.  We are all subject to obey the great commission Jesus gave us before he ascended to heaven (Matthew 28:19,20).  We may also say we have a career calling.  But the call to carry out the great commission is the highest priority.  Nevertheless, God often wants us to use our career calling to help establish our witness and enhance our ability to carry out the great commission.  Some are called to make doing the great commission their entire focus, usually with the idea of helping the rest of the Body become more equipped to do their part in making disciples of all nations (Ephesians 4:11,12).

Can I Build a Railway in Heaven?

Kunshan_South_Railway_Station_Platform_1Question:  Can I build a railway station in heaven?

Answer:  You know that heaven will come to earth in the end (Revelation 20,21).  Will there be a need for railways?  Will you be able, if so, to build one that doesn’t pollute?  Will we need a railway to our solar system or to other solar systems?  Will you cease to be creative…NO.  That is how God made us and we reflect Him in our creativity.  Will we want/need to work…YES, because God is a worker.  It’s in our nature.  Will our resurrection bodies be able to travel instantly where ever we want without use of a railway?  Perhaps.  Jesus was able to do that in his resurrection body (Luke 24).

For Further Reading:

Will There Be Winter in the Eternal Kingdom?

In Heaven Will We Recognize and Be With Those We Love?

Are My Husband and Father in Heaven Yet?

Do I Really Need to Go to Church?

A Different Church Building

A Different Church Building (Photo credit: justshootingmemories)

Question: I am a “new” Christian and I have a question that concerns me.  I do not have a church home and to be perfectly honest, I have not found one that makes me comfortable.  There seems to be too much politics involved, so to speak.  I pray, I believe that Jesus died for me, I study my Bible and I listen to various services on TV and have received much knowledge by doing so.  My life is dedicated to serving my Lord but I do not want to displease Him.  Is it necessary to have a church home?

Answer:  Yes, I believe it is necessary to have a church home.  I know that there are unpleasant interactions in any body of people gathered for a common purpose.  Politics, the practice or study of the art and science of forming, directing, and administrating states and other political units, is an inevitable part of any collective body.  But the politics of the church should be about implementing the will of our Leader, Jesus Christ.  His apostles, who were his authoritative spokesmen for the faith, planted churces wherever they went.  That is, they called together the believers for the purpose of meeting in unity around the authoritative gospel message and to worship together their Savior.  They appointed leaders to help govern the church.  But of course, from the very beginning there were leaders who did not lead well and plenty of opportunities for church members to get upset with each other.

It is in this kind of situation, however, that we learn that we are just as capable of the very errors we hate and in which we must learn to love and be loved.  Like marriage, which is also a very imperfect reperesentation of the ideal love we want to experience, the institution becomes a laboratory for learning love.  If we submit to the Lord and ask him to help us be shaped by love and be shapers of others by our love, he will certainly work that in us.  We need the accountability of others in our lives and to be those who offer accountability.

This is why it says:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV).

For further reading:

Can Satan Make Me Do Something I Don’t Want to Do?

Gustave Doré, Depiction of Satan, the antagoni...

Gustave Doré, Depiction of Satan, the antagonist of John Milton’s Paradise Lost c. 1866 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Question: Can the devil tempt a born again christian into doing something they do not want to do?

Answer:  Temptation is, by definition, an enticement to do something wrong.  So yes, the devil not only can entice us to do wrong, but in fact is looking for every opportunity to do just that.  Will he entice us to do something we don’t want to do?  Yes, if it serves to get us to disobey God.  Of course, there are some things we don’t want to that he doesn’t want us to do either.  We may not want to serve God in the face of difficulty or danger, and Satan would be perfectly fine with us not serving God in such circumstances or any circumstances.

Perhaps your question is really can the devil make us do something wrong even when we don’t want to.  And the answer to that question is no.  He cannot make us do anything.  He can lie to us, seek to persuade us to do wrong things, and even create pressure for us to do wrong.  But we must choose to either believe his lies, follow his persuasion, or yield to his pressure.  Even if there were not devil, we are capable of choosing to do evil.  Our desire to be our own god is the same one Satan is following and so we are in one sense quite on the same wavelength with each other.

There are some people who have so fully yielded to Satan that they seem to lose control of their lives (see the case of the man in Mark 5:1-20), and children who somehow come under Satan’s influence might also be subject to his control (Matthew 17:14-20).    This is what is sometimes called “possession.”  The demon seems to have ability and freedom to operate through the body of the host he infects.  But even here there is a person there who can will for these demons to depart and who can be delivered.

Paul describes (Ephesians 2:1-4) three influences to evil in our lives:  Satan (the prince of the power of the air), the world (our coporate desire to be our own gods expressed in encouragement to one another to follow this instinct), and the flesh (our own inner yearning to be god and trust ourselves rather than Him).  On the day when Jesus establishes his millennial kingdom on earth (Revelation 20), he will greatly minimize the world’s influence (all people starting out will be believers) and he will banish Satan for a thousand years, and yet, at the end of that period, when Satan is released, there will be people ready to follow him in a military campaign against Jesus.

That is how crazy sinful we are.

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If Christians are forgiven, why are we going to be judged?

Question:  It says in the Bible that those who are in Christ are free from condemnation. If this is so, why then willLast Judgement, Triptych we face judgment? And child molesters, rapists, and murderers, are they also free from condemnation when they accept Christ and repent? What sort of judgment might they receive? We will be judged according to our deeds? What does that mean? Christians say we should be free from guilt and shame and accept the free gift of grace and salvation. Then they say we will be judged. This is confusing to me. Should I fear for my salvation or just believe all is well? And honestly, where’s the justice? For those who lived a life of abuse and neglect, hurt, and shame caused by another, God says He will make things right for us. But if the perpetrator is forgiven completely, where’s justice for the victim?

Answer:  There are several judgments mentioned in the Bible.  The final judgment is mentioned in Revelation 20:11-15 and is often referred to as The Great White Throne Judgment because if depicts Jesus sitting on a white throne as he carries out this judgment.  But only unbelievers are present at this judgment, only those whose names are not found written in the Lamb’s book of life.  They are thus judged for not having believed in Christ and they are also judged on their works.  This suggests that there are degrees of punishment in hell (see my article on this).  Dante, in his book Inferno, sought to describe what these different degrees of punishment looked like but there are no specific descriptions given in Scripture.

Believers, on the other hand, will appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10):

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Though it may sound as if this determines whether we are saved or not, Paul makes it clear in all his writings, and especially in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, that this judgment is really about determining our reward in heaven.  Just as there are degrees of punishment in hell, there are degrees of reward in heaven.  There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1).  When we believe we “pass from death to life” (John 5:24).

But your question suggests that for those who have been abused the presence of their perpetrator or any perpetrator in heaven because they repented and were forgiven may compromise your sense of reward.  This assumes that the sin of the perpetrator is different in kind than your sin and less worthy of forgiveness.  And truly, the sin of the perpetrator is egregious and heinous, having devastated and tortured the life of the victim in extraordinary ways.  But we are also rebels against God’s kingdom and rule.  We too have rejected the love and grace of God until He visited us in grace and forgave us.  We are equally undeserving of heaven.

Besides, when we are fully enveloped in the love of heaven, we will be able to love the perpetrator the way God loves the perpetrator and the way He loves us.  We will be able to say as Christ did, “Father, forgive them.”  The perpetrator will be able to acknowledge how deeply and gravely he injured those he abused and seek reconciliation.  We have seen a bit of this miraculous transformation in the aftermath of the end of apartheid in South Africa and in the forgiveness offered after the slaughter of Tutsis and Hutus.

There is a need in human beings, generated by the uncompromising love and justice of God, to see justice done and to see hatred quashed.  God has figured out a way to do both.  If there is not justice for the least infraction, there is no justice.  If there is not forgiveness for the worst infraction, there is no forgiveness.

 

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Should I be scared because I doubt whether Christianity is true?

doubts_fishhookQuestion:  I grew up in a Christian household. My step dad was atheist but my mom and I believed in God. Lately I’ve been having doubts about God and Jesus. I definitely believe that there is some form of high power. But I just don’t know what makes Christianity the right religion and not Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism or Judaism. I question if Jehovah is the right God. And this really scares me because I do not want to go to hell and I love feeling secure in my faith. Also there are some things about Christianity that just sound weird to me. Are there any scriptures or advice you can give to help me?

Answer:  First I would say, it is proper to deal with doubts the way you are.  We all have them.  I think it is the nature of our fallen world and our fallen natures that we find it hard to trust in anything and of course, there is no 100% fullproof way of knowing all the evidence for or against something.  Fortunately, there have been many who have asked the questions we ask and done some great work in thinking through the issues.  So let me give you some thoughts to work with and some reading to pursue.

When I compare the world’s great religions, Christianity (2.1 billion adherents), Islam (1.6 billion), Hinduism (1 billion), Buddhism (376 million), Sikhism (23 million), and Judaism (14 million) [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_religious_populations], I am struck by these facts:

  • Every religion on earth teaches that the way to have a right relationship with God (this does not apply to Buddhism because it is not technically a religion that worships God) is to live according to His moral law to a sufficient degree that He accepts you.  Every religion except Christianity.  Christianity teaches that you are not good enough to live anywhere near a sufficient degree of law-keeping but must be given a right relationship with God as a gift in response to faith.  This means that only Christianity is really available as an answer for anyone, regardless of their ability to be moral or law-keepers.
  • Every religion on earth teaches that God will forgive people for their failures, if they aren’t too wicked, out of the goodness of His heart.  Every religion except Christianity.  Christianity teaches that God cannot forgive us justly unless someone takes the just and fair punishment for our wickedness, which is what Jesus did, of course.  In other words, only Christianity requires a sacrifice for sins, something Judaism used to require but hasn’t since their temple was destroyed.  The sacrifices had to be offered in the temple.
  • Only Christianity views God as one God yet three persons.  This means only Christianity has a God who from all eternity has been in personal relationship, has therefore experienced perfect love (it requires at least three individuals to demonstrate perfect love with no jealousy and equal sharing), and who provides an explanation for why humans need and seek both oneness with a community and yet at the same time an individuality and personal uniqueness that sets them apart as special from the community.  The Trinity is the only sufficient model for this.

All this is to say that these differences between Christianity and all other religions are mutually exclusive.  You cannot hold to Christianity and agree on these points with the other world religions.  They contradict one another.  This doesn’t immediately prove that Christianity is the truth.  Perhaps all the other religions got it right and Christianity stands out alone as missing the boat on these big issues, though it seems to me just the opposite would be the case.  But here is where the work of many defenders of the faith will help us see just how reasonable the Christian faith is.  So let me recommend some very helpful books:

The Reason for God, Tim Keller
The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel
Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace

God is okay with your having doubts.  He loves you and He made you with a mind to analyze and question.  Ask Him to make Himself known to you as you consider the arguments and to show you the truth.  He wants us to love Him with all our hearts, all our soul and all our mind (Matthew 22:37).  Don’t neglect your mind or put it down for doubting.  Follow it to the truth and I believe you will end up loving God more than you did before as you see just how great He is and how clear His answers are to our questions.

For further reading:

Category Archives: Defense of the Faith (a series of articles I have written touching on defending the faith in my Thimble Full of Theology blog)

Category Archives: Apologetics (Defense of the Faith) from my Ask the Pastors blog

Check out Apologetics 3:15

In Heaven Will We Recognize and Be With Those We Love?

Question:  My big sister just passed away a month ago. I know she is with Jesus, but I wanted to know if I will see her again in heaven.  Everyone says I will , but I don’t believe.  Is there any Bible verse that I can use to support this.

Answer: Consider Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 where he is comparing spiritual gifts and love as to their completeness and lasting nature.  He says that when the perfect (or mature) comes then the partial will be done away with.  Then, he says, we will know fully even as we are fully known.  This marks a change in our level of knowledge that is so incomplete at present, and others’ knowledge of us is incomplete as well.  But then it will be complete.  We will not lose our individuality and identity, but will be even more completely identifiable.

We see this when, for example, Saul consults a medium to talk to Samuel (1 Samuel 28) and the medium recognizes him.  When Moses and Elijah appear to Jesus and his three disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17) they are recognized.  When John has a vision of heaven (Revelation 4,5) he recognizes identifiable groups of people, the “elders,” for example.  We will never lose our identity and so we will be recognized and known in heaven.  Heaven is to be that place where all the perfection we have longed for will come true.  Our relationships will be at the level we always dreamed relationships could be.  Our selfishness will be eradicated.  We will love unconditionally.  Your relationship with your sister will be even more wonderful than it was in this life.

For further reading: