Calling

I was sitting during a few free moments with a leading pastor among my partners in Eastern Europe. I asked him if the young people knew of the journey that he and other Christians had made as they followed Jesus during Soviet oppression. His response was not surprising, he told me that anyone university age and younger does not remember much about the difficulties the believers went through in the midst of communism. And, he continued, the people in their twenties were having a difficult time remembering as well.
The young people grew up as a revival swept across Ukraine. Ukraine was known as both the ‘breadbasket of the Soviet Union’ and separately as ‘the Bible belt of the Soviet Union’. Indeed I have told you before that there is a movement of Christ sweeping across parts of Russia, a much larger nation, and in large part God is using Ukrainian missionaries to propel this movement.
Today my pastor friend might say, Ukrainian young people are being inundated with lots of choices. Those in the capital of Kiev are especially blessed with choices. They are becoming westernized very rapidly. They seek the opportunity to ‘do well’ in life. I spoke with one couple who were in their seventies who have seven children. This couple had lived their entire lives in a city of about 400k and all of their children had made the journey to America and now lived far away from their parents, their home.
People move, people change, people have choices, some would say too many choices. In fact Os Guinness writing about following Jesus in his book The Call calls choices in America ‘the deadly modern idolatry of choice.’ (p.167) These choices, according to Guinness, can be wonderful, but it can cause one to stray off the course of following Jesus.
Indeed, like the immigrants in Missouri, California and Oregon who are the children of this couple in Vinnitsia, modern people are sojourners, nomads, and pilgrims. Many people in my age group have had many jobs over their almost thirty year working career, we have had numerous homes in at least a couple of localities. We move about because choices are there and there is an expectation to choose better than the status quo. We are always looking out for a better deal, a lower interest rate, the latest mini-van, ‘er S.U.V, (okay, I’m behind on the popular car because I drive a stylish ’84 Volvo). We are looking to move up to a 17-inch screen on our laptop, a plasma screen on which to watch the super bowl and make the best choice on our 75 channels of cable television.
We are like the youth of Ukraine, we have forgotten that which has gone behind us and seldom look back to see where we have been as we hurtle far too fast down life’s path of comfort and convenience. Indeed, I think Guinness is right; choice is a modern idolatry. It is with this background that I direct our attention to 1 Peter 2:9-12.
‘But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people, but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. 11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that, when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works, which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.’ (1Pe 2:9 NKJV)
Peter reminds us that we are special, and that we are called. A TV commercial once depicted a flock of young ostrich loose in New York City, to corral these wayward birds the owner uses a mobile phone to broadcast the mother bird calling for her young. The birds follow the sound of the mother in the direction they are intended. They go from the danger of the streets to the safety of the trailer because they follow the calling of the voice they recognize.
Jesus calls us and we respond. ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:’ John 10:27(KJV) If we follow the call of Jesus we will follow him and know the way of ultimate safety and well-being.
Knowing our calling means that when choices do arise we have direction, we can avoid distraction; we can avoid the pitfalls of being distracted from the important by that which is merely urgent. As Guinness puts it ‘calling provides the story lines for our lives and thus a sense of continuity and coherence in the midst of a fragmented and confusing modern world. ( Guinness, p.167)’
But in order to hear the calling of Jesus we must be listening. Therefore we must be listening in. During WWII C.S. Lewis broadcast radio talks to the nation at the behest of the British government. He was asked to do this to build hope in the populace during a war that found Britons attacked constantly. One of the word pictures that Lewis drew was that of the soldier ‘listening to the wireless’ that means listening to the radio. These people listened to important information broadcast on the radio. Those on the continent who served in the underground listened intently to the broadcast of the BBC for encoded instructions on activities designed to assist them in their battle as foreigners fighting against Hitler’s forces of evil. Lewis knew his audience understood his meaning when he talked about the world being enemy held territory and an invasion has taken place and Christians are the invading army. These ideas and the talks themselves were later published as Mere Christianity.
But this world is not our home; hence Peter says we are sojourners.
The word sojourner is translated from a word, which means ‘an alien resident, a foreigner, one who is on a sojourn’. We are passing through. We have a calling to go to our home in heaven but each of us is on a journey that passes through this life on earth. And on this sojourn we are to ‘proclaim the praises of Him who called’. This word proclaim is translated from a word which means ‘to publish, to celebrate,’ We are to proclaim what He has done; hence we add numbers to the army fighting the forces of darkness from which we were called. We are to shed light on the works of Jesus so that others may see him in a dark world.
Last evening Anna and I attended a play at Covenant and one of the most important people in the production was the light man. For without the light shining upon the stage, the audience cannot see what is happening. Our lives are full of things that Jesus has done deserving celebration, let’s shine a light on his work, and let’s point to him as John the Baptist did.
To raise awareness of our partners overseas, I do three kinds of publishing, I send emails, I maintain a web site and I do postal mailings. It is through these published means that I get the word out to people who then learn what is going on and they learn how they can get involved. Peter tells us who are called into the light to celebrate and publish the work of Jesus in our lives as we walk with him and follow his call.
Following his call also means changing. If you are a believer, the Holy Spirit of God has done a work in your life, and you are to publish what He has done, but more, we need to keep changing as He makes us more like Jesus. This is sanctification, the process by which the Holy Spirit makes us more like Jesus. But don’t forget we are in a battle. Remember Lewis’ listening to the wireless? THE wireless is the Scripture and never forget that Paul tells is that ‘the Word of God is profitable for rebuke, correction, training in righteousness’ (2 Tim. 3:16) and that the writer of Hebrews tells us that the ‘word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.’ (Heb. 4:12)
Peter reminds us that as a part of this sojourn through enemy territory we are to watch out for their traps, thus Peter reminds us to ‘abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles,'(vs.12)
Back to Guinness, if he is right and the overabundance of choices is indeed a modern idol, then listening to the call of Jesus will keep us from the idols of choices that draw us to our own desires and wants over against the desire, the call of Jesus. Listening to Jesus will enable us to follow his call and be aware of the lies that come our way daily and when tragedy strikes our lives.
In his book comparing Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis, Harvard physician Armand Nicholi discusses Lewis’ spiritual and mental state following the death of his wife. ‘As Lewis looked back on his time of mourning, he realized that he made the process more difficult because he focused not on God, but on himself. He realized that God had not been trying an experiment on my faith or my love in order to find out their quality.’ (Nicholi p.203) God is there for us in our suffering. The great promise of Rom. 8:28 rings so true. ‘And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.’
But note ‘for those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose’ Are we listening to Jesus call? Are we following it?
What is keeping us from finding help in our time of need? What is keeping us from growing? I contend IT IS NOT GOD! It is us.
In that great New Testament letter of warnings, the writer of the Hebrews in 5:12 tells his readers that they should be eating meat and yet, they still drink milk. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. It is no wonder that Christians get confused about what is biblical and what is not. It is no wonder that Christian young people are confused about God’s plan for their lives. We cannot follow Jesus call if we are not listening to him. If one wonders about the spiritual and moral state of America I believe the answer is clear, what few real Christians there are today are ineffective because they are not listening to the call of Jesus, they can’t, because they do not read the Bible. Like the Ukrainian youth who have forgotten how God helped the believers before them in the face of atheistic communism, Christians have forgotten their heritage and they fail in their role as invaders for Jesus thorough failure to praise God and the lack of regular, daily study of his word.
Peter warns us, to proclaim Jesus and to change into his likeness, why? We change so that the inevitable accusations that come upon Christians will not hold up and so that the Lord may be glorified in our lives.
Jesus is calling people, you, your neighbors, your co-workers, and your family. We are not just to listen to the wireless, we are the wireless! Publish and proclaim his deeds!
Be the spotlight shining upon the works of Jesus for all to see!
Be on guard against the wiles of the enemy who wishes to mock you and keep you from being effective; do this by following the call of Jesus which will keep you on track and guide you when the idolatry of
Too many choices lures you from what you should do, proclaim to everyone that Jesus is Lord. In these you will shine the spotlight on Jesus and help others follow the way him!

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