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).

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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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:

Is Jesus Angry If We Do Any Business or Trade at Church?

Question:  The one(?) time that Jesus got angry was when there were merchants selling stuff in the temple. How is that different than the craft fairs or church bazaars where people are selling stuff at the church?

Answer:

There were several times Jesus got angry (check out this article), but the thing that made him angry on this occasion was that as worshipers came to the temple for a proscribed or required festival and had to make sacrifices, it was much easier to buy an animal once you traveled to Jerusalem than to bring one from your town far away.  But the leaders in Jerusalem determined that you could only pay for them with a certain temple coin, so that required making a monetary exchange.  It was not a one-to-one exchange.  I suppose you could say there was a money-changing fee attached, but it ended up being a tax and a hardship on many.  Then, of course, the law of supply and demand caused the prices for animals, etc, there in the temple precinct to be inflated.  Instead of helping people worship God it was making it difficult.

In other words, that is completely different from having a church bazaar or craft fair or a bookstore, for example.  Now if a church were requiring you to buy a craft in order to participate in their worship service, that would make Jesus mad.

Is It Wrong In Every Case to Cuss?

Question:  A lot of people quote Ephesians 4:29 when they tell me cussing is a sin, but it doesn’t say cussing its talking about corrupt speech.  I always thought that means verbally going off on someone to make them feel like crud. I didn’t think it was referring to cussing, and the individual who told me this really laid it on thick.  I haven’t even said I dreamed a dream to my mom in a long time cuz it has the word h**l in it, but does the bible really tell us not to cuss?

Now don’t get me wrong I try not to use foul language especially with people but I mean like for those who sing or act, if it is in the lyrics or script would it then be acceptable since you’re not going off on someone? I guess for this one I just wonder what is scriptural and what is just going overboard.  I know a lot of Christian actors or singers who have a hard time choosing if it would be okay in that instance or not.

Answer:  What is the purpose of using cuss words? To shock, to shut someone up, to inflict pain? Does that comport with Paul’s instructions in Ephesians 4:29 to only let words that build others up to come from your mouth? Now an actor, portraying someone who cusses might be a different issue since the role is seeking to communicate a message about how people interact or whatever. But some uses of cuss words are completely gratuitous and unnecessary and it is questionable whether believers should put themselves in such movies. This too is not an open and shut case.

Question:  But I don’t know if I’m just dumb or what but the whole Ephesians 4:29 still feels wrong.  I mean I was raised to see words as just words unless you put your intent behind them.  For instance if I cuss someone out and make them feel like crud then yes it goes against that scripture, but what about if I cuss in a joke to make a friend feel better or sometimes a motivational speech had a cuss word in it.  Now I don’t know if I’m alone in this but a cuss word is meant to portray a stronger emotion either good or bad. I have never thought that cuss words were inherently bad. Am I wrong?

Plus, what is and is not a bad word is cultural also, so I mean take the word bloody for instance to me it means nothing, but if I go to England is basically like saying d**n or the F bomb.

I honestly don’t mean to be argumentative but I just don’t understand how we can take this scripture and apply it to certain sets of words that our society has decided are bad over time, I mean am I wrong in thinking that Ephesians is referring to how you use words? Cuz like I pointed out even a supposedly bad word can be very edifying if used properly.

Answer:  You are not wrong, there is nothing inherently wrong in most of the words we have designated cuss words. I can see the situation you are talking about when a cuss word might actually cheer a friend. It is all about intent and purpose. Perhaps the only reason a cuss word would cheer a friend is because our culture has chosen to express emotion that way. This might suggest that we are bad at communicating emotion or that there are just certain emotions that demand a harsh word. Words that denote a sexual act may fall into a different category in that we are treating something precious as crude. Maybe it is better that we overcome our derogatory views of sexuality than submit to a cultural usage in that case.

You are being discerning and I think that is the mark of a Christian. We don’t conform to the world if the world is portraying a wrong perspective, but there are still beautiful and valuable aspects to our world’s cultures that we can endorse. It is God’s common grace to all (Matt 5:45-48) that enables human beings to do good despite ourselves.