Excerpt from Erwin McManus ‘an unstoppable force’ (available from Loot – http://www.loot.co.za/refer.html?referrer=85894849355 – for R170)
HOW MANY TIMES DOES HE HAVE TO CALL?
Why are there so many levels of Christian calling in our contemporary Christian community? Where are they found in the Biblical text? I have a strange suspicion that the nuances of these “callings” have less to do with theology and more to do with the condition of the church.
Paul seemed to think that there was one calling. He writes to Timothy, “So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace.” (2 Timothy 1.8-9a)
The Scriptures seem to simplify the process of calling. The one call is to lay your life at the feet of Jesus and to do whatever He asks. It is a calling that says “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1.21). It is a calling that declares, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2.20) It is the calling that challenges us to make ourselves a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, that we may know and do His will.
An honest evaluation of the dramatic number of callings that the church has created would reveal that we have found extraordinary ways of describing the overwhelming amount of Christless living in the church. If we got the first calling right, would any of these other callings be necessary?
Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” He did not say, “Believe in Me so that you can go to heaven.” In fact, He lays down extraordinary criteria. He said, “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me.” He expands by saying, “Unless you hate your father and mother, your brother and sisters, your wife and children, yes even your own life, you cannot be my disciple.” He is emphatic in the condition that unless we deny ourselves, we cannot be His disciples. He describes the response to His calling as the end of ourselves. If we try to save our lives, we will lose them. But if we lose our lives for His sake, we will find life.
LET’S CALL IT WHAT IT IS
What we now consider to be the highest level of calling in the Christian community was, for Jesus, the basic entry point. It was to the whole church that Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything” (Matthew 28.19-20a). It was to the whole church that Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1.8).
In the process of creating a theology that accommodates apathy, disinterest, compromise, and even rebellion, we have lost the essence of the movement for which Jesus died. We made a mistake of making heroes out of those who were simply living a normal Christian life. There may be no more significant ingredient to the apostolic ethos than establishing a radical minimum standard. The gatekeepers for our culture are not the heroes or supermen, but the common person. The individuals who represent the ideal inspire masses to pursue the values and virtues of their people; but it is the common person within each society who establishes the boundaries that are required to remain a part of the clan. It is not the extraordinary standard but the minimum standard that is the critical boundary in shaping a culture. To unleash an apostolic ethos, it is essential to establish a radical minimum standard.
It’s easy to confuse the minimum with the extraordinary. We do it all the time. In fact, organisations continuously face that crisis. Whenever someone fails to live up to an understood expectation, we are forced to make some kind of re-evaluation. Either our standard should change or our actions have to change.
When we live below a standard, it is simply human nature to redefine the standard as unreasonable and establish standards which that our patterns are already accomplishing. We keep lowering the bar until we clear it…
[to be continued]