Friday, October 20 , 2017, 11:49 am | Fair 73º

 
 
 
 

D.C. Collier: A Higher Calling for Your Life

Sadly, our westernized strain of Christianity is often infected with the mistaken impression that God is our butler. A sense that we can just pull Him into our lives when we need something or when things are falling apart.

This “Chap Stick Jesus” approach assumes that God is just waiting around until we develop a sore spot somewhere, and then He magically appears to make it all better. Nothing could be further from the truth.

When Jesus was raising up a group of followers at the beginning of his public ministry, he was unusually blunt in his approach:

“As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother, Andrew, casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’

“At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James, son of Zebedee, and his brother, John, in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men and followed him.”1

Note the direction of the invitation. Jesus was not saying, “Hey guys, mind if I join you?” This was a big paradigm shift. He was inviting them upward into his program, not volunteering to descend downward into theirs.

This was no prosperity gospel, no appeal for blessings, good health or riches. The call was on Jesus’ terms, which included laying down their nets and “taking my yoke upon you ...” They were about to enter the spiritual Twilight Zone, filled with a dizzying mix of unknowns, rejection, danger, excitement, terror and conflict, all pregnant with eternal meaning.

Jesus was about to turn the then-known world upside down, and was inviting this motley crew of laborers to join him. They would never be the same again.

As the late Adm. William Halsey put it, “There are no extraordinary men ... just extraordinary circumstances that ordinary men are forced to deal with.”

In a tantalizing portion of scripture, we are told how God miraculously transforms ordinary people, like His first followers, into beacons of light to the world:

“Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, ‘Light up the darkness!’ and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.

“If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken.

“What they did to Jesus, they do to us — trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us — he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us.”2

Something to Look Forward To

For most thoughtful people, the idea of death is terrifying, if for no other reason than they have no idea what lies on “the other side,” if anything at all.

Although we’ve all heard about “near-death” experiences, and even about people claiming to have gone to heaven, the accounts seem so anecdotal, so infrequent and isolated, that we often dismiss them as the products of someone’s imagination.

The Apostle Paul (formerly known as Saul of Tarsus) was not given to fanciful imaginings or flighty conjecture. He was a highly placed Jewish Pharisee and biblical scholar before he dramatically converted to Christianity, resulting in his being hunted as a fugitive for the rest of his life.

In the latter part of his ministry as a Christian evangelist to the Gentiles, Paul wrote touchingly, even longingly, about what lies ahead for all believers as they face the end of their earthly journeys:

“For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven — God-made, not handmade — and we’ll never have to relocate our ‘tents’ again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move — and so we cry out in frustration.

“Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.

“That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead.

“It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going. Do you suppose a few ruts in the road or rocks in the path are going to stop us? When the time comes, we’ll be plenty ready to exchange exile for homecoming.”3

Now that’s a party! One of the great attractions of the Christian life is that it’s not centered upon us after all, though we benefit immeasurably from its influence. We get to join a party that’s been going on since forever, and all we must do is show up. And even better, it’s about God in us, a very different and far more interesting reality.

Or, we can ignore all that and put “our eggs” in the fleeting “basket” of our short earthly lives. We take that up next week.

D.C. Collier is a Bible teacher, discipleship mentor and writer focused on Christian apologetics. A mechanical engineer and Internet entrepreneur, he is the author of My Origin, My Destiny, a book focused on Christianity’s basic “value proposition.” Click here for more information. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

1. Mark 1:16-20 NIV

2. 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 MSG

3. 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 MSG

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