~Called and Called Again~

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Disqualified. The mere mention of the word stirs up strong emotions. No matter the situation, the word smacks of shame, humiliation, and the worst kind of failure. The Scriptures call us to be like Christ, but they also offer warnings regarding disqualification. Some of us wrongly claim immunity from such attitudes; others of us believe we are beyond help. Paul reminds us that God’s faithfulness provides a way through the temptations that lead to disqualification.

My ministry on word press is spreading more everyday, but my local facebook, twitter, google+ and tumbler ratings are not as impressive. Why does it seem like the more people know you the less receptive they are about receiving the gospel from your vessel? The flags in this picture reflect how well outsiders have responded since the inception of “Fresh Oil in 2013. God has blessed me with invitations to travel to preach and teach what He and only He has infused me with and for that I am grateful. I am also grateful to all who have or are participating in drinking from this well know as “Fresh Oil…

My own call to the ministry was greatly influenced by the prophets of the Old Testament. At a significant crisis point in my life when I was struggling to decide a direction for my life, the Lord spoke to me through Isaiah 61 and said “This is who you are.”  You remember the passage: “The Spirit of the LORD God is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the afflicted.”

After one has answered the call to salvation and received Christ, God calls him to other callings which are moral in mature and affect a believers attitude and conduct. He has called believers to “fellowship with Christ” [1Cor. 1:9], to “holiness” [1Thes. 4:7], to “liberty” [Gal. 5:13], to “peace” [1Cor. 7:15], and to“virtue” [2Pet. 1:3]. Believers are to “walk worthy” of the calling they have received [Eph. 4:1].

But there is still another calling that is even more personal than the moral callings. It is God’s call to the individual believer for a specific ministry. The Lord has been calling individuals for specific ministries for millennia. He called Abram out of Ur; Moses out of Egypt; and Aaron from among the Levites [Heb. 5:4]. God had certain duties He wanted them to perform. The Lord also called many others in the Bible for certain ministries. From Isaiah [Isa. 6:9] to the twelve disciples to Paul [1Tim. 1:11], the Lord has been calling men into His ministry.

A call from God into a ministry is a high and heavenly calling [Phil. 3:14] which, unfortunately, is taken lightly by some ministers today [if they are truly called]. Paul was called to be an “apostle,” “preacher,”and “teacher” of the Gentiles [Rom. 1:1; 1Tim. 1:1; etc.], and he never lost sight of his calling. He actively engaged in his ministry until the day his head was taken. Of course, the Lord doesn’t call men to be apostles today because no minister today has the “signs of an apostle” [2Cor. 12:12]. I know there are some frauds out there who claim to be apostles [Yes, even among Fundamental Baptists] but they are deceived. Just ask one of them for some signs and they usually shut up. But the Lord still calls men to other callings or vocations such as pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. He calls and provides these men to the Church for the “perfecting of the saints” [Eph. 4:11-12].

(Nehemiah 11:1-12:47)

If I were to ask, “How does a person go into the ministry?” many Christians would answer, “The person needs to go to Bible college or seminary. After he has served in a ministry position for a while, he needs to be ordained.”

All right, I admit that it was a trick question. The question itself and that answer reflect a deeply entrenched, but erroneous, mentality among God’s people, which divides people into two categories: those who are “in the ministry” (“clergy”) and those who are not (“laity”). To the extent that we buy into that mindset, the body of Christ will be crippled. Just a few will be committed to doing the work of the ministry, while the majority sit back and let them do it. But the biblical picture is that those who are gifted as pastor-teachers and evangelists are to equip the saints (all believers) for the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:11-12).

So the correct answer to the question, “How does a person go into the ministry?” is, “He or she trusts in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.” At the moment a person trusts Christ as Savior, the Holy Spirit baptizes him (or her) into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). As members of His body, each one has a spiritual gift which he is to exercise for the building up of the body. It is proper and usually necessary for those who are gifted as pastor-teachers and evangelists to pursue formal training. It is also proper, according to Scripture (1 Tim. 5:17-18; 1 Cor. 9:14) to support those who devote themselves to these ministries. But it still is true that every believer has a spiritual gift that he or she is to use in ministry.

I’m talking primarily about a mindset where each of you sees yourself as entrusted by God with a vital ministry for which you will give an account. In the parable of the talents, it was the one-talent man who buried rather than invested his talent. Often in the body of Christ, it is the “one-talent” person who thinks, “I’m not gifted in an important way, so I can’t do much for the Lord.” That’s a wrong mentality that I want to challenge. The lesson I want to draw from our text is that…

All of God’s people should be ministry oriented.

Nehemiah 11 & 12 is another one of those portions of Scripture that you look at and think, “Why did God put this in His inspired Word?” From 11:3-12:26 there is a lengthy register of the names of the Jewish citizens. These two chapters include:

1. The families who repopulated Jerusalem (11:3-24)

A. Lay families in Jerusalem (11:3-9)

B. Priests in Jerusalem (11:10-14)

C. Levites, gatekeepers, and temple servants in Jerusalem (11:15-24)

2. The families who lived in the cities of Judah and Benjamin (11:25-36)

3. The priests and Levites of Zerubbabel’s return (12:1-9)

4. The high priests (12:10-11)

5. The priests and Levites after Zerubbabel and Jeshua (12:12-26).

6. The dedication of the wall (12:26-43)

7. The organization of temple support (12:44-47)

Derek Kidner (Ezra & Nehemiah, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries [IVP], p. 117) aptly says,

It is not bureaucratic pedantry that has preserved these names. The point is, once more, that these people and their chronicler are conscious of their roots and of their structure as God’s company. This is no rabble of refugees, settling down anywhere: they have the dignity of order and of known relationships; above all, of their calling to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6).

These people had willing hearts to do whatever God wanted them to do, and each functioned in their own unique capacity. As we examine the section that lists the names of the Jewish citizens, four factors emerge that help us define what ministry involves. The section dealing with the dedication of the wall reveals four requirements for the person involved in ministry (= every believer).

What does ministry involve?

1. MINISTRY INVOLVES A WILLINGNESS TO LIVE WHERE GOD WANTS YOU TO LIVE.

Nehemiah got the wall built, but there were not many people living in the city (7:4). When the people returned from the exile, the walls were torn down and there was a lot of rubble from the previous destruction. It would have required a lot of work to clear the rubble and restore the city. As the former capital, the restored city would have been a major target for enemies to attack. At first there wasn’t much economic opportunity there. It was far easier to settle out in the country and farm your own plot of ground. So most of the people had been content to live in the surrounding villages scattered across the land.

But Nehemiah knew that if the city was to be strong and prosperous and if the worship in the temple was to thrive, the city had to be well populated with citizens who could defend it in case of attack. As 11:1 notes, the leaders lived in Jerusalem, but most of the people did not. So they cast lots to pick one out of ten who would move to Jerusalem. It seems that some who were not chosen volunteered to move, either in place of or in addition to those who drew the lot (11:2). The ones who stayed in the villages blessed those who were willing to move to Jerusalem.

Those who moved had to pull up roots where they were already established, give up their acreage in the country, and move into what quickly became a somewhat crowded city. Based on the number of men who moved to the city (3,044), there were about 10,000, conservatively estimated, who moved into the city, with a total population of 100,000 Jews in the land (Howard Vos, cited by James Boice, Nehemiah: Learning to Lead [Revell], p. 175). Although it was inconvenient and less desirable in some ways to move from the country to the city, these people were willing to live where God wanted them to live in order to serve His purpose.

One of the first considerations that any servant of God should think about is, “Where does God want me to live?” That should be determined in large measure by the potential for your ministry in that locale. Is there a solid Bible-teaching church where you can grow and serve? If not, is God calling you to help start such a church? That should be a primary factor in any move that you make.

I meet many Christians who say things like, “I moved to Flagstaff because it was a small town and not too crowded. But it’s becoming too big. I’m thinking of moving to (and they name some beautiful remote setting).” They haven’t given a minute’s thought to what sort of church may be there. Their main aim is to get away from people and the city.

Has it ever occurred to you that God pictures heaven as a city? It’s not pictured as a ranch or personal retreat, where you can live in seclusion and ignore others. Its a city, the New Jerusalem! The reason Christians think about escaping from the city is that they don’t have a ministry mindset. If you’re thinking ministry, you’re thinking people. And while people live in the country and in suburbs, it is tragic that American evangelicals have, in large part, abandoned the cities. Rather than complaining about all the people in Flagstaff, we should view them as an opportunity for ministry!

2. MINISTRY INVOLVES SERVING IN THE SPHERE IN WHICH GOD CALLS YOU TO SERVE.

Chapter 11 lists the heads of families in Jerusalem (11:3-9); the priests (11:10-14); the Levites (11:15-18); the gatekeepers and temple servants (11:19-21); various officials appointed by the king of Persia (11:22-24); and, the people who lived outside the city (11:25-36). Each served in his respective sphere for the effective operation of the city and the nation. Those who lived outside of the city had to farm the land to provide food for those in the city. Each had a different role, but each role was vital to the entire cause.

In the body of Christ, God has gifted us in different ways, but every part is vital for the overall functioning and health of the body (1 Cor. 12:12-30). We should learn to coordinate and complement each other without friction or rivalry. Problems often develop in the body because the eye looks at everyone from the perspective of the eye only, and the hand views everything from the perspective of the hand. But the eye should value the hand and the hand should value the eye.

I once heard Carl George make the astute observation that the things in the church that people usually complain about reveal the person’s area of spiritual gift. For example, if a person says, “This isn’t a caring church,” she is probably gifted in mercy. The one who says, “This church doesn’t emphasize outreach enough” is probably an evangelist. The guy who says, “This church is a disorganized mess” is probably a gifted administrator.

The solution is not for the gifted person to sit around criticizing others for not doing what probably is not their area of gift, but rather to get involved in the areas that he thinks need fixing! The merciful person should help us all become more merciful by showing mercy. The evangelist should show us how to reach the lost. The administrator should help us get organized. God has made us all differently, and we only work as a body when we work in our sphere and affirm others in their sphere. Click to view- Servant or Selfish?

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