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 Have to Hate My Family to Follow Jesus?

Heart of Jesus

Heart of Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Question:  “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26).  Can you help me with the “hate” part of this?

Answer:  We know that Jesus wants us to love our family.  Jesus loved his mother enough to entrust her to his disciple John (John 19:25-27).  His apostles have taught us to love our families (for example, Ephesians 5:25).  So Jesus must be speaking in a purposely exaggerated way to make a point.  He said it another way on another occasion:

Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37)

Jesus wants his disciples to understand that living for God and His kingdom is more important than anything, including any relationships.  Now living for God and His kingdom, as we saw above, includes loving your family.  But there are people who have chosen to reject God because their family members didn’t want them to become believers (think of conversion to Christianity among Muslims).  And there are times when we mistakenly think that focusing on our family instead of God will actually help our family when just the opposite is true (think of those who won’t take their kids to church just because they say, “I don’t want to go.”).

To be sure people can abuse this principal in the opposite way.  A pastor can think that he must spend all his time at the church helping parishioners and yet neglects his family.  But Jesus is not addressing that issue here.  He is addressing the issue of how much commitment is required to follow him.  In the very next sentence in the Luke 14 passage he says, “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

We have to love him more than our own lives, as well.  Knowing God is the most important thing in our lives.  Nothing can eclipse it without endangering our souls.  No other reality can make us the persons we need to be in order to love our families and make a positive difference in the world.  This one commitment must trump all others or we will fail to be the people God created us to be.

What Did Jesus Mean When He Said He Would Come on the Clouds?

Question:  Will we see the  Mighty One and Jesus in the clouds upon His return? Matthew 26:64 says,  “Yes, it is as you say,”  Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on  the clouds of heaven.”

Answer:  That is what Jesus said would happen.  This is a reference to Daniel 7 and a vision Daniel had of one like a son of man coming to the Ancient of Days and receiving from Him an eternal kingdom.  All would bow down to, serve and worship, this son of man.  Stephen, the first martyr, got a glimpse of this in advance when as he was dying he saw heaven opened and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

Jesus is referring to his second coming, which will be the polar opposite in many ways of his first coming.  He will be seen in all his glory and no one will be able to deny that he is the Messiah, the Son of God.  The book of Revelation depicts the judgments that will be poured out beforehand (Revelation 6-19) and his coming with an army to bring his kingdom to earth.

Randall Johnson

Related Articles: Is It Possible the Kingdom Has Already Come?

How Do Angels Interact with People Today?

An angel comforting Jesus before his arrest in...

Image via Wikipedia

Question:  Four questions my wife and I are discussing:

  1. Are there any examples of angels engaging in combat in the Bible?
  2. Are there any examples of angels engaging in a healing process in the Bible?
  3. What are the methods of angels interacting with humans and do you have any references
  4. Do angels deliver messages today to believers and if so, is there a limit here to what messages and could they deliver it through other people?

Answer:  There is a surprising amount of information in the Bible about angels.  In answer to your questions… 

  1. Daniel 10 depicts an angel who came to answer Daniel’s prayer with a message from God.  He related to Daniel that the “prince of Persia” resisted him until the archangel Michael’s arrival to help him get free to come to Daniel.  It seems the conflict between angels in heaven affects the lives of people on earth.  Various political entities have angelic and demonic beings associated with them seeking to accomplish things in and through them.  The demonic prince of Persia did not want the angel from God to encourage Daniel, but Michael made sure he got through.  In addition to this passage many others speak of angels as the Host of God and angels are seen in battle or ready for battle in such passages as Numbers 22; 2 Samuel 24; 2 Kings 19; and Matthew 25:63 among others.
  2. After Jesus’ temptation (Matthew 4:11) and his prayer in Gethsemane (Luke 22:43) angels came to Jesus and ministered to or strengthened him.
  3. Angels are seen in Scripture accompanying the Israelites in the Exodus (Exodus 32:34), bringing messages from God (Matthew 1:20; 2:13; Luke 1:11-13, 26-28; Acts 10:3-6; 27:23,24; et al), participating in the last judgment (all through Revelation) and various other activities involving humans.  Admittedly, these are few and far between, but they on occasion act on behalf of God to accomplish His purposes.
  4. It is entirely up to God as to whether He wants to use angels today to deliver messages to believers and He may indeed choose to do so, as many have attested.  Hebrews 13:2 encourages us to entertain strangers since they might be angels.  This isn’t the only reason Scripture gives for helping those in need, but it shows us that God may still use angels in this way.  The only limit I can think of as to what they might communicate to people is that it cannot be in contradiction to God’s revealed Word in Scripture.  As to whether they can communicate through another person, that seems a little too much like demon possession and the Scripture never represents angels as doing that.

Spiritual Priorities: God first, spouse second…

Question:  How do you put work #3 and still get ahead? 

Answer:  Sometimes you don’t.  Generally speaking, when we find a way to make sure we are following the Lord first, and loving our families and giving them priority over work, we are both happier, better supported when we need to put in extra hours, and more successful at doing our jobs.  However, there will be times when putting God first and family second will cost us in our job.  If that seems unacceptable to us then we are not fully understanding what God has called us to do.  Our ultimate calling is to fulfill His great commission to the church (Matthew 28:19,20).  If our ultimate goal is to succeed in our jobs, we will find ourselves miserable failures after all.  God knows what we need.  He knows we don’t need to make our work number one.

Question:  It’s hard having my spouse put family second to God now that my spouse is a Christian. 

Answer:  It is sometimes hard to lose what seems to be the old way of doing things where you were number one to your spouse and didn’t have to compete for his or her attention.  Now that he or she is trying to follow the Lord you have to vie for his or her attention and he or she doesn’t always come at your beck and call.  This is not unlike having that first child and suddenly the baby is the focus of all a mother’s attention and energy.  It might be possible that adjustments need to be made so that your spouse is not devoting all his or her time to the Lord in a way that gives short-shrift to the family.  The best thing to do is to sit down and talk about each of your needs and openly discuss how you view the Scriptures addressing the issue of priorities, then working together to find a solution that meets everyone’s needs and fits Scripture.

Question:  If the kingdom of God is all important, why shouldn’t I give up my job and family and live completely for the kingdom? 

Answer:  Because you would be disobeying God’s direct commands (1 Thessalonians 4:11,12; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; Ephesians 5:22-31).

Here are some exercises for Spiritual Growth…

1. Write down the things you want to accomplish in life.  This list should answer the question, “What do I value the most and the doing of it would leave the most significant impact on the world around me?”

2. Ask someone you trust to look through your list and help you evaluate it in light of Scripture.

3. Using your list, determine what aspects of your life you need to change in order to make the accomplishing of this list your priority.

4. Discuss with the meaningful people in your life how they would enjoy, struggle with or otherwise be impacted by the changes you are considering making.

5. Allow God to shape your thinking and give you conviction as to how to implement this list.

For further reading:

Ordering Your Private World, Gordon MacDonald

Hindrances to Spiritual Growth

Question:  What things can keep a new believer from spiritual growth?

Answer:  Just as any living thing needs nurture, new believers need spiritual nurture.  This includes a body of believers who accept and love this person, Biblical instruction that shows a new believer how to live before God and in God’s strength, and appropriate correction when the new believer makes mistakes.  This would be comparable to a new sapling getting shelter, food and pruning.  It needs the proper environment, one of safety, to keep it from experiencing conditions too severe for it’s undeveloped state.  It needs nutrition as building blocks of growth.  And it needs damaged or diseased portions removed so as not to stop healthy growth.  Paul describes his treatment of the new Thessalonian believers as being “gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children,” sharing “not only the gospel of God but our lives as well,” “encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:7,11,12).

The things that can keep a new believer from growth are the absence of such nurture, putting them into positions of responsibility before they are mature enough to handle them, isolation from other believers, and life-controlling issues that do not immediately drop off when they come to faith in Christ.  Jesus describes shallow roots, troubles and persecution, and the worries of life and the deceitfulness of wealth as hindrances to growth (Matthew 13:18-23).

Are we disobeying God if we don’t use wine at communion?

Glass of grape juice.

Image via Wikipedia

Question: Are we doing as Jesus asks when we substitute grape juice for wine, when we have communion with something not fermented? If we are not doing what he wants us to do, why not? What can a half thimble of wine hurt? I am confused and want to be obedient.
Answer: It is refreshing for someone to be so concerned about obeying the Lord. We need to be careful to do that. However, the Scriptures nowhere command what kind of food exactly we are supposed to be eating at the Lord’s Supper. Does this mean we should assume that we must eat the same meal Jesus and his apostles ate? But we don’t know what that was. Do we know how much alcoholic content was in the wine they drank? We don’t. Jesus only said that he would not drink of the fruit of the vine until he came again in his kingdom (Matthew 26:29).

Grape juice is fruit of the vine. And we know that for some individuals who have tried to stop drinking alcohol entirely, because otherwise they have a problem obeying the command of God not to get drunk, it seems safer not to have anything with alcoholic content in it. So to obey one command (do not cause your brother to stumble) we are saying no to alcohol at communion. But we are not breaking any command about what we are exactly to drink at communion because Jesus nowhere told us exactly what meal we were supposed to have. Wisdom dictates therefore that we are fine using grape juice and not in any way disobeying the Lord Jesus by doing so.

Randall Johnson