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1.27.2007

CALLED:

I finished reading John Bevere's book entitled, "Driven by Eternity." In one of his closing chapters, Bevere talks about Christian's hearing and fulfilling their "Calling." (I don't much care for this idea because I'm not quite sure where it is in the Bible.) Anyway, he went into further detail than I will here, but it got me thinking.

I've heard friends, acquaintences, and pastors say the following: "I feel God is calling me to..." or "I believe I am called to..." or "God is leading me to...". Shortly after one of these persons utter one of these phrases, they promptly go out and do whatever it is they were "called" or "led" to do. (Just a quick sidestep here: if someone says one of these phrases, he/she gets an automatic "free pass" to mess up whatever it is he/she feels led/called to do, since, after all, they had God's "direction", so-to-speak).

Continuing...I've also heard many of the same people who claim God called or led them to do something quickly revert to some of their former actions. For example, a person once said he/she felt called to leave the church. A week or two later he/she felt called to return/stay. How does that happen? Since the rule applies that all who utter these phrases automatically receive a "free pass" I can only come to one possible conclusion: God sure must change His mind a lot!

10 comments:

  1. A few verses concerning "being called" (not exhaustive)...

    Ac 13:2 -
    While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have CALLED them."

    Ac 16:10 -
    After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had CALLED us to preach the gospel to them.

    Ro 1:1 -
    Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, CALLED to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God--

    Ro 1:6 -
    And you also are among those who are CALLED to belong to Jesus Christ.

    Ro 1:7 -
    To all in Rome who are loved by God and CALLED to be saints:

    Ro 8:28 -
    And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been CALLED according to his purpose.

    Ro 8:30 -
    And those he predestined, he also CALLED; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

    Ro 9:24 -
    even us, whom he also CALLED, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?

    1Co 1:1 -
    Paul, CALLED to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,

    1Co 1:2 -
    To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and CALLED to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ--their Lord and ours:

    1Co 1:9 -
    God, who has CALLED you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.

    1Co 1:24 -
    but to those whom God has CALLED, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

    1Co 7:17 -
    Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has CALLED him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.

    Ga 1:15 -
    But when God, who set me apart from birth and CALLED me by his grace, was pleased

    Eph 1:18 -
    I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has CALLED you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,

    Heb 5:4 -
    No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be CALLED by God, just as Aaron was.

    Heb 11:8 -
    By faith Abraham, when CALLED to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.

    1Pe 1:15 -
    But just as he who CALLED you is holy, so be holy in all you do;

    "...(Just a quick sidestep here: if someone says one of these phrases, he/she gets an automatic "free pass" to mess up whatever it is he/she feels led/called to do, since, after all, they had God's "direction", so-to-speak)..."

    I wouldn't say that someone gets a free pass to mees up just because God "called" someone to do something. People are infaliable, and in fact Paul said that many should not desire to become teachers because they will endure a stricter judgement. My boss at work can tell me to do something and I can screw it up, but does that mean I get a free pass because he told me to do it?

    "...Continuing...I've also heard many of the same people who claim God called or led them to do something quickly revert to some of their former actions. For example, a person once said he/she felt called to leave the church. A week or two later he/she felt called to return/stay. How does that happen?..."

    They didn't hear God one of the times, and they need to "man up" and learn to say, "I made a mistake."

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  2. correction to my above comment: Should read, "people are FALLIBLE" Glad I caught that one!

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  3. The issue with these verses has more to do with God's determined will. We are all "called" to spread the gospel; we are all "called" to Christ; we are all "called" to be saints; all who are predestined were indeed "called." None of these, however, have anything to do with "vocations" or "choices" we face. Rather, they relate to our position in God through Christ.

    Notice also, the word is mostly used in the past tense. Paul never mentioned, "I feel called to...or I feel led to..." Instead, in looking back on his actions, it was more apparent that it was indeed God who callED and equipped him to do something.

    How many times do we hear people today say, "Wow, this must be a God-thing" instead of looking back and saying, "Wow, now that WAS a God-thing" ? There is a big difference. When we use it in the present tense, we tend to use it to fit into OUR plans for ourselves. When we look at the past tense, it tends to focus on God's role in what occurred through us.

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  4. Positions or choices:

    Ac 13:2 -
    While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have CALLED them." (Here we see the Holy Spirit setting aside two individuals for the work that he has called them to do -- the work as missionaries.)

    Ac 16:10 -
    After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had CALLED us to preach the gospel to them.
    (Here we see the Holy Spirit directing the missionary team to a particular region. We also see in scripture where Paul talks about the Spirit preventing them from going to a particular region. There is certainly choice involved here as well.)

    Ro 1:1 -
    Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, CALLED to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God--
    (Here we see Paul referencing his calling as an apostle. As an apostle I'm sure there are some things that God expected him to be doing in fulfilling that calling.)

    Heb 5:4 -
    No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be CALLED by God, just as Aaron was. (This particular verse is being used to describe some elements of the old sacrificial system, and how Aaron was in fact called by God to fulfill that purpose, so here we have an OT example appearing in the NT.)

    Heb 11:8 -
    By faith Abraham, when CALLED to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. (Here is another OT example of someone being called to do something. Fast-forward the past a little bit and you see the Hebrews as slaves in Egypt under cruel oppression. To someone in the situation at that time they could have been saying, "Man I wish Abraham wouldn't have taken off out of so many years back, because look where it got us. When he made the choice to pack up and move he must not have been hearing from God." Again an instance of choice.)

    """"Notice also, the word is mostly used in the past tense. Paul never mentioned, "I feel called to...or I feel led to..." Instead, in looking back on his actions, it was more apparent that it was indeed God who callED and equipped him to do something.""""

    Of course the word will be used in past tense, particularly through the book of acts as Luke is writing down something that they went through in the recent PAST. To write about it in the present tense just would not make any sense. The same is also the case for the references from Hebrews.

    Here is another applicable reference:

    Eph 2:10 -
    For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (If he has prepared these things in advance for us, then wouldn't we need to determin his will in accomplishing them?)

    Ro 12:2 -
    Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

    """"How many times do we hear people today say, "Wow, this must be a God-thing" instead of looking back and saying, "Wow, now that WAS a God-thing" ? There is a big difference. When we use it in the present tense, we tend to use it to fit into OUR plans for ourselves. When we look at the past tense, it tends to focus on God's role in what occurred through us.""""

    I think you make some rather big assumptions with this statement and blanket something that I'm sure is true in some cases, but by far not all.

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  5. Exactly! Everything was written past tense, so I think it may be a stretch for us to try to understand it in the present tense and therefore apply it to the here-and-now: "I feel God is calling/leading me to..." Instead, it seems the "called" statement make much more logical and theological sense when viewed past tense. For example, "I WAS called", or "I WAS led"; rather than "I FEEL called", or "I FEEL led". The passages you quote still do not seem to solve the issue of "hearing God's voice" or being "called" here-and-now.

    I am not saying Christians can NEVER hear God's voice for leading and calling. I simply don't think it is the rule in scripture, but the rare exception.

    By the way, doesn't God give us the ability to make well-informed decisions? According to the way many Christians practice decision-making today, if I claimed "God led me" to eat at Wendy's (apply this to spiritual things Christians do) because I thought an armed robbery was going to go down, and although my "leading/calling" was wrong I can say, "Huh, I thought I was called by God...I guess I didn't hear His voice." Now the incorrect decision is pinned on God rather than myself. Instead, it should be as you suggest, that we should "man up" when we make wrong decisions: "Hey, experience, knowledge, and desire guided my choice, but unfortunately it was apparently not the correct choice. My bad! I'll add it to my brain-files for my future decisions."

    Greg Koukl ("Stand to Reason") wrote: "...[there are] 16 total [occasions] in the book of Acts in where God gave personalized direction in the thirty years that elapsed during that period. In each of these examples, God communicated His specific desires to the recipient. Note, though, that not all 16 are examples of the kind of guidance ("assignments') we usually have in mind when we're seeking God's will." (www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5203)

    Love the dialogue, bro!

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  6. Oops, I forgot to add that the Greg Koukl article concluded citing 71 "important decisions [in Acts] that were not supernaturally directed."

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  7. """"Exactly! Everything was written past tense, so I think it may be a stretch for us to try to understand it in the present tense and therefore apply it to the here-and-now:""""

    What? The past tense writing wasn't so they could feel comfortable in finally labeling something as being from God (when they felt safe that the success showed it must be from God), it was becasue it would be a huge gramatical error to state something in the present that had occured in the past.

    """""I feel God is calling/leading me to..." Instead, it seems the "called" statement make much more logical and theological sense when viewed past tense. For example, "I WAS called", or "I WAS led"; rather than "I FEEL called", or "I FEEL led". """"

    So are you saying... in order to not look foolish in the event we "miss it", we should wait to see the outcome so we can say we followed God if the turn out is favorable? It seems that by taking this approach we do as you said earlier by tending "to use it to fit into OUR plans for ourselves."

    """"The passages you quote still do not seem to solve the issue of "hearing God's voice" or being "called" here-and-now.""""

    ??? Ok, let's look at a segment of Peter's sermon from the 2nd chapter of Acts:

    17 "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

    If we have prophecy, visions, and dreams which God uses to direct and lead people as can be witnessed at various places in the book of Acts, and God has given us His Sprit, the Spirit of the living God who dwells within us as our counselor and our guide who brings about these things then indeed we are led and called to do this or that for the edification of the Church, and for use in evangelism as can also be seen in the book of Acts. If this is not the case, what is the Holy Spirit's purpose? Does He dwell within us simply to make us feel warm and fuzzy?

    """"I am not saying Christians can NEVER hear God's voice for leading and calling. I simply don't think it is the rule in scripture, but the rare exception. Greg Koukl ("Stand to Reason") wrote: "...[there are] 16 total [occasions] in the book of Acts in where God gave personalized direction in the thirty years that elapsed during that period.""""

    These two thoughts seem to go together. For Koukl to argue that becasue there only 16 occasions in the book of Acts where God gave personalized direction (which is also an argument from silence, as just because someone makes a decision without saying specifically in the text "the Lord led me" does not mean the Lord in fact did not lead them) and therefore it is a rarety does not hold any water. Let's look at this verse from John:

    Joh 21:25 -
    Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

    The same can be applied to the book of Acts as it is not a running narrative of every second in the lives of the early believers.

    """"By the way, doesn't God give us the ability to make well-informed decisions?"""

    Yes, but sometimes our best most well informed decisions, are not those that God would desire. As the scriptures says:

    Isa 55:8 -
    "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.

    Isa 55:9 -
    "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

    1Co 1:20 - Show Context
    Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

    1Co 1:21 -
    For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

    1Co 3:19 -
    For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: "He catches the wise in their craftiness";

    """"Instead, it should be as you suggest, that we should "man up" when we make wrong decisions: "Hey, experience, knowledge, and desire guided my choice, but unfortunately it was apparently not the correct choice. My bad! I'll add it to my brain-files for my future decisions."""""

    Anytime we step out and learn to discern what God would have us do we are bound to make mistakes in "hearing" him correctly. We prophecy in part and we know in part, and until Jesus returns that is the way it will be. Again in learning to discern I appeal to:

    Ro 12:2 -
    Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

    yes, good discussion :-)

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  8. I'm going to trust you don't think that my support for using prayer, analytical problem-solving methods, and faith-stepping when making decisions implies that I suggest abandoning the guidance of the Holy Spirit. While the Holy Spirit does not seem to tell me to take this or that job, or do this or that thing, He does give me wisdom to search His Word for guidance in moral, ethical, and decision-making dilemmas. I think you and I may simply understand the Holy Spirit's "purpose" with differnt lenses. The blog is simply my opinion filtered through the lenses of how I understand God and His desires.

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  9. I think in many ways we are saying the same thing, just differing on the credit of where the guidance is coming from. Whether God is given credit in the present as doing the leading or in the past tense, he is still getting credit.

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  10. Well written article.

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