Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Divine Calling

Both the calling and the education of God’s children are crucial in God’s kingdom. The calling will determine the education. Calling someone to believe in Jesus Christ must not be underestimated. We must pay attention to the manner of the calling, as well as its method and content. Just like the process of labor contributes to the health of the baby, which in turn will determine the education of the baby, so the calling of Christians contributes to the health of their faith and so their education as God’s family. For example, if the process of labor is done improperly then the baby’s life will be at risk. If, say, the labor is starting, but instead of helping the mother to deliver the baby the nurse instructs the mother to delay the labor because the doctor is late, then the baby might be at risk of not getting enough oxygen to the brain. If the baby does not get enough oxygen to the brain, brain damage might be lurking. If the baby is born with brain damage, the education of the baby will be greatly affected. One cannot teach a baby with cerebral palsy, for example, the same way like teaching a baby that is normal. Babies with cerebral palsy need special treatment that will accommodate their shortcomings. Extra attention is needed in order to make sure the progress is not delayed. However, special treatment might not help improve or fix the damage that is already done. Once a baby is born with cerebral palsy, usually the brain damage is permanent. The irreparability of the damage caused by a mistake during labor dreads many parents. In the same way, we must be very careful when calling Christians. Once the calling is done improperly, the newborn Christians might suffer an irreparable damage that will cripple their faith for life.

Many people underestimate calling and think that one can call Christians carelessly. Often people think that God will clean up their mess and make sure that everything works smoothly and perfectly. When they do that they don’t treat God properly. They insult God by placing God as the cleaning service who will clean up after their mistakes. Jesus had to pray carefully before selecting His disciples. He did not do it lightly. Jesus did not call His disciples to follow Him because He would make them wealthy and healthy, like what some people are doing. What do you think would happen if a preacher calls people to believe in Christ Jesus because, that preacher said, Jesus promises wealth and health to those who would believe in Him? This is what I think would happen. First, no one can be certain of the sincerity of those who respond to such calling. There will always be suspicion that they believe in Christ because they want to be rich and healthy. Second, obviously, we might predict reasonably that those who respond to that calling are those who are either very poor or unhealthy or greedy or want to live forever. Now, do we seriously think that Jesus wants people believing in Him based on such motivations? I have never found in the Scripture that Jesus called His followers in that way. So how in the world preachers nowadays are calling people to come to Jesus by luring them with the promise of wealth and health? Don’t they know that if they do that, they are going to give birth to a Christian with very serious faith damage? The next question is: “How can we repair such damage?”

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t doubt the power of the Holy Spirit. However, the task of calling believers is entrusted to us by Jesus Himself. The Holy Spirit will give the second birth to the chosen regardless of what humans do. The chosen will be born again, not by the power of man, but by the power of God. However, we partner with God in the delivery process. Such partnership is entrusted by God to us (cf. Romans 10:9-17). This knowledge calls for careful treatment of how we call people to come to faith. We must not call people in the wrong manner and then leaving the mess we create to God to handle. We are responsible fully for what we do. All the apostles called people very carefully. They did not call people carelessly. Peter called people in the day of Pentecost speaking of the truth and only the truth. Peter did not lure people with the promise of wealth and health, but instead Peter said clearly that people sinned greatly because they killed Jesus who was sent by God (Acts 2:22-23). Peter risked his life telling the truth. That truth is necessary to call people to come to faith in Christ. Peter did not compromise the message entrusted to Him by his Master. The Holy Spirit blessed the calling, and some three thousand people gave themselves to be baptized that day. If our work to call believers is not important, and the only one important is the Holy Spirit who gives new life, then why would God be angry at false teachers and prophets? If our work is not important, then we can be as careless as we want, even to the point of heresy, knowing full well that God will fix our mistakes later and so everything will be well. If so, then we can also neglect calling, teaching, caring, and continue believing that God will do everything so all will be well. Such conclusion will bring this world to chaos, don’t you think? Know that we are not called to bring chaos into the world, but instead we are to bring about shalom.

The fact of the matter is we are entrusted with this ministry by the God of heaven and earth. God has taught us the truth and in the right way, thus we must continue to pass the truth in the right way to the next generation. When we do things correctly, we don’t rob God of His power, but instead we please Him because we do what He wants. This is not the debate about supernatural versus natural. All things we do in the spiritual realm are supernatural, because without God’s work in and through us, nothing will be accomplished. When Jesus commissioned His disciples, He promised that He will be with them to the end of the age. Since His promise pertains to all believers, then He will also be with us all until the end of the age. Faithfulness is big in this kind of ministry. We don’t work in God’s kingdom because we can get all the fame. We don’t work in God’s kingdom to compete on how many people will fill the local church we lead. We don’t work in God’s kingdom to show off how rich our local church is in material wealth. Jesus himself dismissed about five thousand followers because they followed Jesus for the sake of food (John 6). If we call ourselves the followers of Christ, than we do not seek what Jesus does not approve. If we bypass Jesus’ approval and create our own standard, then we are not His followers. Who knows whose followers we are? With that being said, we don’t call people using worldly marketing strategies in order to gain fame to ourselves, or to bring many people in our local church, or to get money from them to achieve our ambitions. But instead, we call people to follow Jesus Christ, which means to deny ourselves, to take up our cross, and then to follow Him (Luke 9:23). The calling must be done in the right way just like how Jesus would call people to follow Him.

Honestly, I’m horrified at how daring many preachers call believers today. They don’t call believers to believe in Christ for the sake of Christ, but for the sake of many other things so remote from God’s will. One preacher calls people to believe Jesus so they can be richer than they are. Another calls people to come to Christ so they can be healthy. Still yet another calls people to embrace Jesus Christ so they can have “supernatural” power. Or there are preachers who call people to believe just so they may escape hell and enjoy heaven for themselves. All those modes of calling are geared toward one thing, which is to indulge our own selfish desires. Many preachers today don’t call people to obey the Lord, but to manipulate God for the sake of their own gain. Many preachers use bombastic slogans in order to impress their hearers and hope by being impressed they will believe everything they say. A preacher went too far as to claim he was shown hell by God. He said that he saw how horrible hell was. He told the stories of his “journey” as if it were true. He told that while in hell he saw the devil and his demons torture unbelievers with agonizing pain. And people believed what he said that he was a holy pastor given supernatural experience by God. Do you know that he is a false prophet? In the Scripture nowhere it is said that the devil and his demons torture unbelievers in hell. The Scripture teaches us that the devil, his demons, and all unbelievers will be punished in hell. How come that preacher’s testimony claims that the devil and his demons are the ones punishing unbelievers? Yet many Christian “babies” did not understand the truth yet but being led astray by such heretic testimony that the preacher claimed in the name of God. That preacher is like an irresponsible doctor who does not carefully help the mother to deliver the baby in a healthy way. Those Christian “babies” who believed what he said suffered a great deal of damage in their faith. Such carelessness is comparable to an ObGyn doctor who is careless in the process of labor and causes the baby to suffer brain damage. How would one mend a brain damage? How would one mend a faith damage?

Once the baby is born with brain damage, he/she needs a different treatment and education. Once a Christian “baby” is born with faith damage, he/she will demand something totally different than what a healthy “baby” would demand. For example, if new believers come to Christ because they believe their preacher who said that the reward of believing is becoming richer, then they will demand that their desire to be rich is to be fulfilled by God once they believe in God. Their faith orientation is not toward God but toward self gain. Again I will ask: “How would one mend such faith damage?” Some people might argue that such condition is not faith damage, but instead is a no-faith. In that way, there are many no-faith who claim they do have faith in Christ. Their church is big and full. Those no-faith faithfully come to their church hungry for “spiritual food” that will fulfill the desire of their no-faith-ness. Do you see this phenomena? But for me, instead of calling them no-faith, I prefer looking at them as being born with a faith damage. Again, there is a huge difference between educating and caring a normal baby and a brain damage baby. The thing is, if we know how serious is the implication of being careless during calling, then we should avoid being careless at all cost when calling. This duty to be careful does not apply only to calling, but also to educating believers in the faith. Horace Bushnell in his book Christian Nurture has demonstrated how crucial it is to educate believers in the faith.

It actually is not too difficult to call in the right way. That’s why I said above that in this kind of ministry faithfulness is big. We are called to be faithful. We just need to be faithful to God’s will in order to call people in the right way. But yet it is very easy to fall. Sometimes our worry, fear, and ambition are bigger than our desire to follow God’s will. Many times our ego is greater than our submission to God. But may I remind all of us once again that what you do when calling will affect greatly the newborn Christian babies’ spiritual life onward. Therefore, it is not too much to say that it is the Business of Christian Education to carefully call believers into faith in Christ, in such a way that the calling will not cause faith damage to the newborn. This should make us even more submissive to God for this ministry is His from beginning to end. Let us please God by being faithful to His will.

* The Business of Christian Education XVI

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