Over the Christmas holidays, my six year old son Luke had what I’ll simply describe as a rough day. Some of Luke’s trials he brought upon himself through temper tantrums and starting squabbles with his siblings. And his transgressions resulted in the loving yet firm discipline of his parents multiple times on this particular day (yes, we spank). Other hardships on this day we can just chalk up to things not going Luke’s way. He accidentally dropped and broke his favorite toy, bumped his head multiple times on a variety of objects, and generally felt as if the world was out to get him. In Luke’s six year old mind, things couldn’t get any worse.
Towards the end of this perilous day, Luke came over to me (after his mother and I had lovingly disciplined him for the umpteenth time) with tears in his little eyes. With a shaky voice, Luke apologized for his rebellion and disobedience. He then asked me a question that greatly surprised me. As I held him in my arms, Luke asked, “Daddy, are you going to kick me out of the family?” By the look on his face, I could tell this wasn’t merely the random question of a six-year-old boy. Luke was seriously concerned that due to his actions, he might be asked to pack his bags and hit the road.
I drew him close to me in a tight embrace and looked him square in his bright blue eyes. I said, “Luke you are my son and your mommy and I have loved you from before you were born. And nothing you do can ever change that love.” Under Luke’s teary eyes a big smile broke out all over his face. All of the hardships of his day seemed to pale in comparison to the security of knowing that his identity was secure in the love of his family.
The year 2017 has come and gone. And unfortunately there are many people within the church whose feelings about this past year are very similar to how my son Luke felt a few weeks ago. No doubt, there are those who feel like they have been beaten up by the world. They may feel separated from God due to out right rebellion or due to numerous trials that have recently engulfed their lives. And when this happens, it is not uncommon for believers to ponder the question, “Does God truly love me as His own, or am I outside of the family?”
It is in these uncertain times that God draws near His troubled child and gives the most comforting words that any Christian could hope to hear. The Apostle Paul delivered these words to believers who were questioning God’s love for them due to the many trials of life.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30.
Contained in this promise are the five great pillars of our faith. They are five pillows in which the children of God can lay their weary head upon when life seems to cause questions regarding the love of our Father.
For all of those who truly love God have been foreknown.That is, God had set his affections on them before they had breathed their first breath. They have not only been foreknown, but the Christian has been predestined, meaning their status as a child of God had been predetermined before the foundation of the world. God foreknowing His children and predestining their sonship are things that were done by the Father in eternity past. However, Paul goes on to write that those who love God will also be called, justified, and glorified. These three pillars are future promises. But the calling happens in between God’s past selection and their final glorification..
Those whom God calls will indeed come to him. Some have called this calling the irresistible call. However in truth, this call can be resisted. But only for a time. Eventually, those whom God has foreknown and predestined He will eventually call. And although there are those who may fight this calling, eventually they will come to the Lord.
“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” John 6:37.
There are actually two different calls that go out. The first call has been described as a general calling. This calling goes out to all the world. The book of Romans tells us that God calls through the knowledge of His creation. That merely looking at the wonders of the universe proves to all that there is a divine creator. Also the Gospel call is heard through the preaching of the Gospel. Everyone who has breath can hear the Gospel through preaching and read of the message through His Word.
This is an external calling that is available to everyone. However not everyone responds to this outward calling. In fact, if it were not for a second calling, as a result of sin, no one would respond to God. In order for man to come to God and desire to forsake his sins, God must supernaturally give an internally calling. This is a call that God gives to those that He has foreknown to be His before time began. This is a call that breaks the sinner and causes the Gospel to be seen as beautiful. We see an example of mans denial of the general call and God internal calling a parable Jesus gives in Matthew 22.
“And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.
The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.” Matthew 22:1-13.
As the parable goes, the King gave the invitation (the general calling) but no one responded. Their earthly concerns were of far more importance than coming to the King. This is proof of how far sin has distorted man’s thinking. Who in their right mind would choose their daily grind over fellowshipping with a King? It’s as if those who deny this gracious invitation are under a spell or a curse. Paul describes sin as a curse in Galatians.
Notice then the King sent His servants to gather anyone they could find, both good people and also those who were deliberately rebellious against the King. All of these who received the second calling He brought into fellowship with Himself. If we continue reading down to verse 14 of Matthew 22, Jesus says this of the call of God;
“For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14.
Many are called though the general calling, and this calling goes predominately ignored. But those who are given the effective internal call have been chosen through God foreknowing them. The second calling is a supernatural calling. It is a calling that removes the blinders of pride and self-absorption that sin has placed upon us and it exposes us to the shame and degradation of our own sins.
This second calling breaks man. It causes even the most self-righteous of us to see ourselves in light of our sin and as the prophet Isaiah say, ““Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips .”Isaiah 6:5.
Those that are called are changed people. Although they are not perfect nor will they be until their future glorification, they now despise their sin and desire to be like the God who saved them. In 1 Thessalonians the Apostle Paul speaks to the church to who he had proclaimed the Gospel and makes this statement.
“For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,” 1 Thessalonians 1:4.
How could Paul know for certain that these people in the church of Thessalonica were truly children of God? Did Paul have the power to see their hearts? Absolutely not. Paul was certain of their calling as a result of what he saw their response to hearing the Gospel. Paul continues and says;
“…because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” 1 Thessalonians 1:5.”
Paul writes that he was sure of their calling because when the Gospel was delivered full of power, the Holy Spirit fell upon them and they were convicted. Notice Paul doesn’t say they were merely sorry for their sinful life, he says they were convicted. Conviction is to know and realize guilt, and to carry with it a feeling of great remorse and a desire to change. This change is not possible with man. We do not have the power within ourselves to break the chains of sin that bind us. Only Christ can effectively deliver this calling which makes sinful man into a new creation.
Throughout the scriptures, Christians are referred to as the called ones of God.
“He 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 1:9.
“For God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable.” Romans 11:29.
Paul said of his own salvation, “But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace,” Galatians 1:15.
“It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 2:14.
“Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12.
“After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10.
“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,” Ephesians 4:1.
“These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” Revelation 17:14.
When God calls with His effectual call, it is undeniable. The call of the Lord is that which breathes new life into our spiritually dead souls. When Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones was just a boy, his Sunday school teacher asked him why Jesus had called Lazarus by name as he lay dead in a tomb before telling him to come forth. Lloyd Jones replied, “Because if Christ hadn’t specified his name, all of the dead would have risen from their graves.”
The calling of God is life giving to man, both physically and spiritually. And it is this calling that is our greatest treasure. It is our assurance that our salvation is not seen in our downfalls or in the numerous obstacles life may through in our path. This calling is one we desire to live out more than fulfilling the sins of our former life.
“Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;” 2 Peter 1:10.
I praise God for His call upon my life. And I give Him praise for the calling of all of His children. For it is within this calling that our tears are wiped away and our sonship in Christ is realized.