God decides what he wants to do with our lives; we often refer to that as God’s call upon our lives. Having heard this terminology all my life, I still struggle to understand it. You see, the problem is our massive brains think that the path we are on (hopefully a good one) was all our doing. How wrong we are.
As I start to write an image of the bumbling television spy, Maxwell Smart, popped into my head. America was involved in the “cold war” and what we perceived, as Communisms push to take over the world. Each week Maxwell Smart, otherwise known as Agent 86, would save the world, at least until the next episode, but only by accident. You could count on 86 having to call the office by using his shoe phone at least once each episode. He had to pull off the sole of shoe to expose a rotary dial, an earpiece, and he flips down the heel of the shoe to talk. I cannot imagine that any of us thought that something like this would become an everyday occurrence.
The Apostle Paul too had a calling upon his life, but the call came in a much more dramatic way. While riding into town, with the intent of persecuting Christians, just as Islam is doing today, God knocked Saul off his horse with a bright light. Try wrapping your head around that for a moment. Saul, now lying on the ground, unable to see, begins to hear God’s voice talking to him. When Saul asked, who are you? The voice answered with, I am Christ, the one you are persecuting. Just moments before, Saul actually thought his calling was to persecute those who seemed to be in opposition to the “Jewish” faith.
Saul went about persecuting any of “the way”; he did much more than persecute people. I say that because our general understanding of persecute is to harass. Bullies that go about harassing people, fulfilling some sick internal pleasure, can eventually kill you. For the most part, they try to cripple you with words, but some heartlessly leave bruises and vicious scars on their victims. Somehow, Saul, the religious bully, thought he was doing the right thing.
We find it recorded in Matthew 24: 5-10 when Jesus, speaking to a Jewish crowd, warned that there will be deceptive and harmful people coming, and they think they are doing the right thing.
“For many will come in My name, saying, I am Christ, and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled, for all these things must occur; but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines and pestilences and earthquakes in different places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to be afflicted and will kill you. And you will be hated of all nations for My name's sake. And then many will be offended, and will betray one another, and will hate one another.” (MKJV)
Not even the Modern King James translation does this passage justice. Having looked at many translations, I do not believe that any of them do. However, here is one that is close, and yet it misses it.
Matthew 24:5 GNB Many men, claiming to speak for me, will come and say, 'I am the Messiah!' and they will fool many people.
The King James version puts it this way: “For many shall come in my name” Our assumption is that Jesus (Yashua) is telling them that those coming will represent themselves as Christ, using that name (the reality is that many have done just that. The result of an in-depth relationship with these people has typically ended in a violent death for the followers.) If you are a student of the bible, then you should know that Yashua was a common name, and the Greek version of Joshua.
If you look up the Greek for the word name, as it is used in Matthew 24:5, you get onoma, and it merely means – a name, or authority figure. To say, “a name”, implies that the name itself carries weight, much like a president with the backing of a nation or military force. Our assumptions have misdirected us and caused us to look for incorrect definitions of end time’s events.
Since we are trying to comprehend what is being said, the next thing I want to look at is the idea of these people saying, -
“I am Christ;”
Yes, the Greek word is Christos, and it is the word used to define Jesus as the anointed one. Why then am I having a problem with it? The meaning of the word Christos is anointed (presumably with oil); by implication to consecrate to an office or religious service. Webster’s dictionary defines anointed as one set apart. Well, that is exactly how Islam feels about it. You can add Boko Haran to that list as well. They believe they have a calling or mandate from the Qur’an to carry out Allah’s plans with violence.
If I do a rewrite of Matthew 24:5, using the definitions and origins of the wording, we get this: Many, claiming to speak as god’s authority figures, will make bold statements like, I am the anointed or chosen, and will cause many to roam from safety and truth. (Me)
This suddenly causes a shift from religious tradition, and allows us to consider looking at Islam as the ones that most closely fit this prophetic word; for they commit brutal acts while claiming that they are surrogates for a god, Allah. The Qur’an teaches them that they have the favor and blessing of Allah, as they wantonly slaughter people merely because they are not Muslims.
Saul, turned Paul, now finds himself standing before the same Jewish council he once worked for as an enforcer. Trying to defend himself he said, "Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day." Paul admitted that in his role as a ranking Pharisee, that he stood there, not only approving, but holding the cloaks of those who threw the stones at Stephen. This would not be something you brag about, unless you were a fool, trying to impress fools. No, he was trying to make this Jewish council understand something deeper.
By the time, we get to Acts 26, Paul has appealed up to king Agrippa, a man who understood Jewish tradition and ways. He had asked to be here. In contrast to killing Christians, this was definitely an aspect of God’s calling, for he is not only defending himself against the Pharisees, who were falsely accusing him, but he showing them that Jesus is the fulfillment of the law.
Questioned now by governors and a king, Paul responds:
Acts 26:8 GNB Why do you who are here find it impossible to believe that God raises the dead?
Had Paul come to understanding that he had been the dead man? The only dead man mentioned, several chapters earlier, had been Stephen. No, Paul is talking about himself, and, by logical conclusion, every other believer.
What does it mean to be dead? Paul used the Greek word nekros - a corpse. Therefore, Paul now understood the true condition of his life before Christ, to be dead.
An aspect of the discussion at Monday morning’s bible study, had one of the men saying; “I know I am a sinner”. In reality, this sin is an aspect of our broken lives, but brokenness does not equate to dead. Having spent some time in recovery, I have come to realize that this brokenness is an aspect of our life and unavoidable. That old, dead man, riddled with sin that kept us separated from God, was replaced the day we accepted the life of Christ within us. What a strange irony, because the world thinks accepting Jesus strips all the enjoyment of life out of you; The reality is, Jesus Christ brings you life. While Jesus can and does heal the brokenness, in reality it is more of a process over time. What we look for as healing is more like you replacing your broken behaviors with Christ like qualities.
Paul, in his letter to the Roman church, wrote:
“as Scripture says: "I have made you a father of many nations." Abraham believed when he stood in the presence of the God who gives life to dead people and calls into existence things that don't even exist.” (Romans 4:17 GW)
You can attest to the fact that you are breathing, and yet without Christ in your life, you are dead – spiritually. The sin and disobedience kills you. Again, Paul writes, but this time to the church in Ephesus. In this letter, he defines what he means.
“In the past you were spiritually dead because of your disobedience and sins. At that time you followed the world's evil way; you obeyed the ruler of the spiritual powers in space, the spirit who now controls the people who disobey God.” (Ephesians 2:1-2 GNB)
He goes on to explain how you gain life back. (A clue, it has everything to do with having Christ in your life.)
“Actually all of us were like them and lived according to our natural desires, doing whatever suited the wishes of our own bodies and minds. In our natural condition we, like everyone else, were destined to suffer God's anger. But God's mercy is so abundant, and his love for us is so great, that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience he brought us to life with Christ. It is by God's grace that you have been saved. In our union with Christ Jesus he raised us up with him to rule with him in the heavenly world.” (Ephesians 2:3-6 GNB)
Let us take this back to the origin of man’s death.
“Therefore, even as through one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed on all men inasmuch as all sinned:” (Romans 5:12 MKJV)
There is hardly a person in the civilized world that does not have a comprehension about the Garden narrative. Having been told not to eat from “the tree”, Adam stands there watching as the serpent tempts his woman, and there are no replacements, as far we know. He just stood there, saying nothing in rebuttal, as a multitude of thoughts raced through his mind.
Knowing what God said, I cannot even imagine what he was thinking as she sunk her teeth into that fruit. You cannot almost feel him tense up, holding his breath, waiting for her to drop dead at his feet, but that did not happen.
What does he do in response when she extends her hand with the fruit in it; he takes a bite. That is when he feels it, a sudden surge of strange new emotions: feelings of fear, separation and inadequacy. He had never experienced these things before, because was made in the image of God, untainted. He had been the dominant ruler.
For untold years, he had an intimate closeness with the Creator of the universe, and now he feels anything but close. Oh sure, the death of the body was a part of the deal, but for Adam, it took 900 years. It was far worse than that, the serpent had killed the man from the inside out, exactly what he had wanted. It was almost as though in that one moment of time, Satan had affected the man’s DNA, because Adam passed it along to every one of us.
Keep this in mind as you ponder what happened that day. Man partook of a tree called the knowledge of good and evil. While the choice of man in general, was to pursue the evil, there is no doubt that the good is still evidenced occasionally. Sadly, God had spelled out the result of man’s bad choice, and it was death – or should I say, a separation from God.
There you have it, much like a massive Tsunami, and all because of Adam’s actions. Mankind, from that day forward, was born into sin, and death. That seems like an extensive, all-encompassing effect, and it is. Now how does this equate to God’s plan? This makes plain the problem we humans have, but we are not God, and we do not see things as God sees them.
However, there is hope.
“But from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, death ruled over all human beings, even over those who did not sin in the same way that Adam did when he disobeyed God's command. Adam was a figure of the one who was to come. But the two are not the same, because God's free gift is not like Adam's sin. It is true that many people died because of the sin of that one man. But God's grace is much greater, and so is his free gift to so many people through the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ. And there is a difference between God's gift and the sin of one man. After the one sin, came the judgment of "Guilty"; but after so many sins, comes the undeserved gift of "Not guilty!" It is true that through the sin of one man death began to rule because of that one man. But how much greater is the result of what was done by the one man, Jesus Christ! All who receive God's abundant grace and are freely put right with him will rule in life through Christ.” (Romans 5:14-17 GNB)
I do not know how that hits you, but for one man’s actions to essentially affect every human, down to a genetic level, from that day forward, is huge. Yet, Paul tells us that the action of Jesus Christ on the cross is even greater yet. This is understandable as I read the passage above, and yet I know that some can and will stumble over it. The key words are “All who receive”.
Allow me to reveal a little secret to you. It may allow you to see how much greater and freeing Jesus actions were. It is not known with certainty who wrote the book of Hebrews. However, what I do know is that the writer understood some of the same concepts as Paul. Here is one:
“. we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10 KJV)
Christ put himself on that cross. By putting himself there, he paid the price, purchasing us out of the bondage to the penalty for that sin we carry. Moreover, Jesus never has to do it again. According to Hebrews 10:10, we were made clean through a purification process that only the priest could do. Jesus was that priest. This has everything to do with that sin-damaged chromosome we all carry. He covered the price demanded and we do not have to pay the sin tax anymore.
You are not free and clear yet; but you clearly do not have to stand before God, trying to make up excuses for a nature that wants to break away from God. You are however, responsible for what you do with Jesus Christ. That becomes a problem doesn’t it?
Paul and the Father want you to know what your calling is. Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit leads us and guides us into all truth, and shows us things to come. Perhaps some of those truths are your calling.
In the letter to the Christians gathered at Ephesus, Paul wrote:
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” (Ephesians 1:16-21 ESV)
If I based my search for a definition of my calling on what this says, this letter would have me believe that it is all about hope. Sure, hope will motivate to move forward, but does little to define the plans I have for my life. I gave you much more than you required, only because you needed to know that Paul, a man dearly loved by God, was praying for this body of believers to understand their calling. Paul’s actions demonstrate God’s heart toward you.
What do we see in the passage above?
- An understanding of the riches of our inheritance,
- A working knowledge of the immeasurable greatness of his power, which he imparts in and toward us who believe.
- All this works because of the great might that he fashioned in Christ, when he raised him from the dead. (You are aware of that correct.)
- God, seated His Son at his right hand in the heavenly places. (While Christ remains our great high priest, making intercession for us daily, he is done. He is done fighting with the enemy because he defeated him. I know that is hard to swallow because we still struggle, but he has handed all that authority over to us who believe, and what do we do with it? Argue with him, as to why he is not fixing things.)
- That heavenly place where he sits is: “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” (He did not go on a well-earned vacation. Can you begin to understand why the world seeks power?)
In the seventh chapter of Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul is continuing a theme by talking about the choice to be married, how to treat each other in marriage, and the pitfalls of abusing this trust relationship you have been called to. Paul, a man who should have been married (I say that because it would have been traditional for a man who held his position as a Pharisee.) However, Paul is either not married at all, or because of his becoming a follower of Christ, his wife divorced him. This is not defined for us, at all.)
While we tend to perceive marriage as just a course of life, it is apparently a calling. Paul goes on to talk about circumcision. While it falls under the law and not necessary, it is still found as calling. Slavery is mentioned in the same breath with calling. How one would volunteer to be a slave as an aspect of God's directive I do not know, but allowing my mind to think about the conditions in India, where a caste system would exclude you from having an education or significant job, might force you sale yourself. Perhaps, you are a lucky one, and the owner treats you fairly; then by all means, live your calling as unto God.
I had always understood God’s calling to be one that directs you to go do mission work, or something along those lines and that may be the case.
What if we just saw needs and tried to meet them? Filled with all that power, what if we just followed Jesus example and healed the sick, etc?