The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Monday, December 3, 2012

Called To Be Saints (Part One)

After arriving home from my last day of first grade, I announced to my parents how glad I was that school was finally over, and that I did not have to go back ever again. My parents’ expressions waxed blank. It took at least thirty seconds before one of them, my father I think, broke the news that I would have to go back that fall, after the summer was over. My joy had instantly turned to mourning.

“For how long?” I asked.
“For another year,” he said.

As difficult as that sounded, another year might not be too bad. I had made it through one. I could do it again. And then it would be all over. . . .

A thought came that nearly knocked the wind out of me.

“What about after that? Was there any more school after that?”
“Yes,” came the hesitant reply.
“Well, how long?”
“Twelve years. . . in all.”
“TWELVE!” I bellowed.

To a six year old (I started when I was five), that was like saying it would be a zillion millennia.

As one may correctly guess, when I approached graduation in my senior year, I did so with great joy and gladness. The word that was on everyone’s mind in my class was vocation. What were you going to do the rest of your life? This was 1966, and the Vietnam War was raging. Many in my class went off to war. As far as I can tell, only two died there (my graduating class was over eight-hundred), one of them ten days after he arrived. I went off to college. . . Bible college, in fact. In those days, unless you were in college, you were drafted. Many went off to college for that very reason, to avoid the draft. I did not. I went to Bible college because I had aspirations of becoming involved in the ministry. That trumped everything else in the world, and I had no guilt in being there. Looking back on it today, I know what I did was right, but I sometimes grieve deeply over the thought that others did go and paid dearly. They were not able to follow their vocational goals as I did.

The word vocation literally means, calling. When you talk about vocation you are talking about your calling in life, that is, What have you been called to do for a living? It is fascinating to me that the idea of a calling is bandied about by all men, believing and unbelieving, Christian and pagan, alike. They use the word to refer to what they want to do, are doing, or have done as their professional career. But they never stop to think that if one has a calling, it means he has been called, and if called, there is a caller. I wonder if the atheist Richard Dawkins ever considered who it was that called him to be a biologist. Perhaps he sees a danger in that and avoids the word vocation. I really do not know.

Several years ago, I taught a series of Adult Sunday School lessons through Philippians that took a year to complete. Looking back at my notes I saw that I spent some time on the phrase, “to all the saints in Christ Jesus,” recorded in Paul’s greeting (Phil 1:1). The concept of sainthood spurred me on to discuss the biblical notion of calling, for those who are saints are such because they are called to be saints (Romans 1:7; I Corinthians 1:1). A number of New Testament texts can be laid out to give us a rather clear idea of what it means for us who are ‘called to be saints,’ and over the next few weeks, we will consider these.

Today, consider 1 Cor 1:9 wherein we are told that we are ‘called into the fellowship of his (God’s) Son.’ To understand this fully would require a good deal of time on the meaning of fellowship. Suffice it to say that fellowship here and elsewhere has the etymological notion of sharing something in common, and semantically conveys the idea that two or more people are enjoying each other’s company because they are not at odds with each other, they are in agreement and harmony. They like the same things, have the same outlook, or to put it philosophically, they hold fervently to the same world-and-life view.

Light and darkness, righteousness and lawlessness do not have the same interests in mind; they are polar spheres, exact opposites; therefore, Paul asks rhetorically, What fellowship do they have? (2 Cor 6:14) There is none. John tells us that God is light and there is not even one particle of darkness in him. If we say that we have fellowship with God and walk in darkness we lie and are not doing (let alone not telling) the truth, 1 John 1:4, 5. Hence to be called into fellowship with Jesus Christ means to be called into a way of life that typifies the kind of life Christ lived, who exercised all the fruits of the Spirit in great measure, Luke 2:40, 52. Christ was sinless, perfect, and holy without measure. To be called into fellowship with him is to share in that freedom from sin and to walk in the light as he is in the light.

So, we must take a hard look at ourselves. Are we walking in freedom from sin? (Rom 6:1-14) Are we walking in his likeness? (1 John 2:6) Are we pursuing holiness without which no man will see the Lord? (Heb 12:14) This is not a calling to sinless perfection in the present evil age. Rather, it is a calling to make a conscious and continuous effort to be holy; and when we sin, to repent quickly and gladly, looking to our Advocate before the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous who is the sacrifice that satisfies God’s justice for our sins, 1 John 2:1, 2.

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