Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 4:12-25

bibleLast time, we looked at the Temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Jesus overcame every temptation using the Word of God to refute and resist the Devil. Afterward, we saw Jesus being ministered to by the angels.

Remember that upon being baptized by John the Baptist, God the Father testified of His Son before the people in an audible voice and God the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove. We know that the Holy Spirit then sent Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted… and that temptation picks up in the texts after 40 days. Today, we pick up the Gospel According to Matthew in verse 12. The ESV marks this portion of Matthew’s account as the beginning of His ministry.

Matthew 4:12-25 (ESV) | Jesus Begins His Ministry

12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee.13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
    the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people dwelling in darkness
    have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
    on them a light has dawned.”

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew is still focused on demonstrating to his Jewish audience how completely Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. We, Gentiles, tend to focus on the prophecies that point to Christ’s death and resurrection (as we should) for the forgiveness of our sins and our adoption into the Kingdom of God. The Jews, however, were God’s chosen ones. Matthew (under the influence of the Holy Spirit) isn’t waiting for those prophetic references, he is  presenting the very life of Jesus in light of Prophecy, particularly here from the Prophet Isaiah. Let us pause Matthew for a moment and read from Isaiah 9, beginning in the first verse.

Isaiah 9:1-7 (ESV) | For to Us a Child Is Born
1  But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

2 The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
3 You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
4 For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
5 For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
6 For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

This is such a beautiful passage of Scripture. The Jews of Jesus’s day longed for this prophecy to come to pass. They had come out of the Exile but the throne of David had not yet been reestablished. They were an occupied people. They longed for the Messiah… only they still wanted a king like the other nations, only they wanted their king to rule as David did. They weren’t ready for Jesus. The next portion of this prophecy speaks of judgment upon Israel. This was initially a prophecy of the coming judgement upon Israel, the northern kingdom. I’ll leave it to you to read on and see if Matthew isn’t also pointing ahead toward the judgement against the religious leaders of Jesus’s Day also. Jesus was coming to fulfill the Law and the Prophets and very soon the Temple would be replaced by Christ’s body. Isaiah has historical context that cannot be subverted, but in its historicity, we see a foreshadowing of what Jesus, the Messiah, was coming to accomplish. Great stuff. Okay, let’s get back to Matthew.

Matthew 4:18-22 ESV | Jesus Calls the First Disciples

18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Jesus saw them, called them, and they followed Him. Maybe it happens to you, but I didn’t grow up in a fishing community, so often when I read through this passage I picture Jesus walking along the side of a lake at a KOA campground with a few weekend families out on a fishing trip. I have to remind myself that this isn’t their recreation, this is their profession. This isn’t some isolated lake, but it is an integral part of the local economy. The seashore was likely full of fishermen. I don’t like pulling in extra-biblical material, but since I needed an external reference to better picture this scene, let’s look at how historians describe this area around the time of Jesus.

When Herod Antipas took over Galilee in Jesus’ time, it was a rural region on Judea’s margins. Larger towns such as Bethsaida, a fishing center on the Sea of Galilee, could hold as many as 2,000 to 3,000 people. However, most people lived in small villages such as Nazareth, the home of Jesus’ foster father Joseph and his mother Mary, and Capernaum, the village where Jesus’ ministry was centered. The populations of these hamlets rarely rose above 400 people, according to archaeologist Jonathan L. Reed in his book, The Harper Collins Visual Guide to the New Testament.
(ref: About.com)

Another website claiming to quote Josephus (I’ve not yet chased down it’s veracity) assesses that each village in the area of Galilee held populations in excess of 15,000 each. Suffice it to say that my mental image based on how I grew up is far too small. This draws extra significance to the fact that Jesus saw these men and called them. It would be like walking into the food court area of the popular local mall and spotting 4 individuals to call upon… not at random… not by asking for volunteers, but seeing them and calling them. Matthew didn’t need to tell his audience what a busy scene Jesus would have been walking into… they knew. I hope that at least in some way, now you do, too.  Let us continue.

Matthew 4:23-25 ESV | Jesus Ministers to Great Crowds

23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them.25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

What was the focus of Jesus’ Ministry? Teaching and proclaiming the Gospel. Did He also heal the sick and cast out demons? Yes. Was this a “healing and deliverance crusade”? No. Jesus went throughout Galilee teaching in the synagogues and proclaiming the Gospel. What was he preaching? While we don’t have specifics in this passage, Matthew’s reference point coming into this portion is “Now when he heard that John had been arrested…” What was John’s Gospel?

Matthew 3:1-2 (ESV) 1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 3:11-12 (ESV) 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Jesus was most likely teaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”, only He wasn’t a herald for one who would come after, He is the One, the Only Begotten Son of God, who came to take away the sins of the world. John’s preaching brought many out of Jerusalem to be baptized… Jesus’ preaching brought out many more, from the entire region. Next week, we’ll be diving into the Sermon on the Mount.

Romans 11:33-36 (ESV)
33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Amen, indeed. May the Lord bless you and keep you in Him until that great day.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Discipleship: Calling, Apprenticeship, & Ministry IV

Apprentice

Repro. of painting by Emile Adan, copyrighted by Braun & Co., N.Y.

Okay, so where has this week gone? I didn’t want the week to go without taking a look at a key figure in the Bible, his calling, apprenticeship, and ministry.  Today I want to return to the Old Testament, because I’d like to start looking at David. However, in order to get there, I felt it necessary to start with Samuel the Prophet of God.

Samuel

We’ve seen how God called, trained and sent out Gideon in the time of the Judges of Israel. In moving toward the time of the kings of Israel I’m excited about getting to the Throne of David, on whose throne Jesus is promised to reign forever (Gospel!). But I don’t want to skip straight there, because a key figure throughout this time period is Samuel. Now Samuel was called by God before birth, and his calling from God comes as an answer to prayer. So today’s story will be the first we look at that might be misconstrued a bit by some as prescription for obtaining the call of God on your life. Let us start by reading the setup directly from the Bible.

1 Samuel 1 (ESV)
1 There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. 2 He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

3 Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord. 4 On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. 6 And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. 7 So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. 8 And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

9 After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. 10 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. 11 And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.

12 As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. 14 And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” 15 But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. 16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” 17 Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” 18 And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.

19 They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. 20 And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the Lord.

Praise the Lord, for He is worthy to be praised. We serve a God who hears the prayers of our hearts, sees our distress, and answers our prayers. Now, I would like to caution you, to be very cautious in your vows. Making a vow to God is no small thing, and should not be engaged flippantly. While I do intend to present this story as an example of the Greatness, Love, Mercy, and Kindness of the Living God we serve, I’m not saying we should copy all of her steps; rather, that we pay attention to God’s response. She takes a dangerous road here in vowing a vow to God, but she remains faithful to her vow, so it works out here. Why the cautionary statement? Lets look at the strong warning in Ecclesiastes:

Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 (ESV) 1 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. 2 Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. 3 For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words. 4 When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. 5 It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. 6 Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? 7 For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.

Aside from the vow, let’s look at what the Scriptures tell us about Hannah. She has endured a great amount of ridicule from the Peninnah, the other wife of Elkanah, their husband. Because she had no children, and was barren (the Lord closed up her womb). Her husband, is aware of her sadness and predicament, and it manifests itself in their worship (observing of the sacrifices/offerings). He tries to encourage her by saying, “Am I not more to you than ten sons?” Well, Elkanah cannot do anything more for her, and cannot provide children. So she takes her supplication to the Lord God. She prayed and wept bitterly. As she termed it, she poured out her soul to the Lord, that He would grant her a son. In asking the Lord for a son, she commits the gift of God (a son) back to God for the rest of his life. The comments she makes to Eli about not having had any wine or strong drink, and to the Lord God about no razor touching his head leads me to think she was committing him to a life-long Nazarite Vow similar to that of the calling of Samson (Judges 13). I don’t think Hannah is expecting to give birth to the next judge over Israel, she is dedicating a gift of thanksgiving to God in keeping with what is already in Scripture. She is asking that God would show mercy on her, and bless her with a son, and in return (thanksgiving) she will give back to the Lord what He has given her. What starts this blessing? What reaches the Lord’s heart? Her faith. She walks away from the Temple that day, assured that the Lord had heard her prayer, and that He will provide, “Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad“.

Hebrews 11:1-2 (ESV) 1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation.

If we are to emulate the people of old who received their commendation… we need to look to their faith, and the object of their faith, the Lord God of Israel. God gives her a son, and she is quick to complete her vow (please… don’t start making vows, especially vows you are not able to keep. Do not give the devil an opportunity to enslave you by the words of your own mouths). Make your requests known to God, and pray as Jesus taught us to pray (Matt 6; Luke 11)… and put your faith in Him. Will all of your prayers come true? No. God’s Sovereignty remains fully intact. We do not dictate to God anything. We make our requests known to Him through prayer, and we have the right by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. But God’s Will supersedes ours. Not every woman who prayed for a son received one. The Old Testament has a purpose, and that purpose is in the Promise of the Messiah. Let us continue with Samuel.

1 Samuel 1:21-28 (ESV) 21 The man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice and to pay his vow. 22 But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, so that he may appear in the presence of the Lord and dwell there forever.” 23 Elkanah her husband said to her, “Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him; only, may the Lord establish his word.” So the woman remained and nursed her son until she weaned him. 24 And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. And the child was young. 25 Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. 26 And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. 27 For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. 28 Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there.

Good, she was faithful to her vow to God, and now Eli (who has 2 sons already serving as priests) has an apprentice. She has been dedicated to the House of the Lord, but is this his calling? Before we get to that, let us look at Hannah’s prayer of Thanksgiving and Prayer… because it’s awesome…

1 Samuel 2 (ESV) | Hannah’s Prayer

1 And Hannah prayed and said,
“My heart exults in the Lord;
my horn is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in your salvation.
2 “There is none holy like the Lord:
for there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.
3 Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.
4 The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble bind on strength.
5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger.
The barren has borne seven,
but she who has many children is forlorn.
6 The Lord kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
7 The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low and he exalts.
8 He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
and on them he has set the world.
9 “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness,
for not by might shall a man prevail.
10 The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces;
against them he will thunder in heaven.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
he will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed.”

11 Then Elkanah went home to Ramah. And the boy was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli the priest.

Here we have an apprenticeship beginning with only a partial calling. Hannah’s vow to the Lord committed Samuel to the service of the Lord as a Nazarite. God would soon Call on Samuel. Notice here that Eli isn’t exactly the most qualified (by human standards) to be Samuel’s mentor as evidenced by the next verse, “12 Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord.” Not good. Nevertheless, we see in v26, Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and also with man.

Now, 1 Samuel 3 starts off with an interesting statement, “1 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.” The Lord was about to change all of that, and He was about to make His Will known to Israel. Now, let’s look at what the Word of the Lord is to Samuel, when He finally Calls Samuel

1 Samuel 3:10-18 (ESV) 10 And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” 11 Then the Lord said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. 12 On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. 14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.” 15 Samuel lay until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. And Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16 But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” And he said, “Here I am.” 17 And Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.”

Woah… that’s rough. So here, we have the Word of the Lord coming to Samuel, at the end of his apprenticeship and his first task is to speak God’s judgement on the house of Eli. In obeying the Word of the Lord, the calling on Samuel’s life propels him into ministry as the Prophet of the Lord.

1 Samuel 3:19-20 (ESV) 19 And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord.

Amen. We haven’t seen the last of Samuel. As I said at the beginning, we will see God use Samuel in mighty ways. But as we move through the first kings of Israel, I hope you remember that Samuel was a gift given to a woman, who placed her faith in God, and out of her blessing (from God) she returned to Him what she had promised. And she praised God and gave thanks to God. There is nothing here for Hannah, nor for Samuel to boast in, except the Grace and Mercy of a God who hears our prayers and commends faith (Hebrews 11) in His Word and in His Promise.

I pray you have a wonderful weekend, and may the Lord bless and keep you always,
In Him,
Jorge

Discipleship: Calling, Apprenticeship, & Ministry III

Apprentice

Repro. of painting by Emile Adan, copyrighted by Braun & Co., N.Y.

To switch things up a bit in this series, I’d like to take a look at one of the Apostles. Today, Let’s take a look at the Calling, Apprenticeship, & Ministry of the Apostle Paul.You might be thinking, “woah, that’s a huge jump from Gideon to Paul”. It is, but I believe that once we’ve finished going through this study, you’ll realize that ultimately, it doesn’t matter whose life we study, what we see is God at work in and through these men of faith. I’m so excited to get into this, because the Apostle Paul went to great lengths to provide us with what we need to know about God’s redemptive work first in Paul and then through him, but all of the work was done by Him.

Paul (formerly Saul)

Our first introduction to Saul comes in Acts 7. But I don’t want to dive right in without some context first. In the first 5 chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, we see the Apostles launch in the Ministry of the Gospel, the Great Commission. We will study this time in the near future, but for now let me just say that these sermons are powerful. The Spirit of God works mightily in His Church. The Church grew so large that the Apostles could no longer see to every detail of the needs of the brethren while also devoting sufficient time to prayer and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, in Acts 6, the Apostles promote seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, to be promoted as deacons, so that the Apostles could devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word. We will also take a closer look at the New Testament model for Church structure. So many projects in the queue, Praise the Lord! But I digress, one of the chosen men was Stephen. Men of various synagogues tried to trip Stephen up but couldn’t, due to the work of the Holy Spirit, so they got false witnesses to testify against him in front of the Sanhedrin. When it is finally Stephen’s turn to respond to the accusations against him… he launches into an astounding sermon beginning in Acts 7:2. How he ends the speech, and what happens next always brings a tear to my eye…

Acts 7:51-60 (ESV) 51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” 54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Acts 8:1-3 (ESV) 1 And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. 3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

Now take a second look at what is happening to the church in Jerusalem. Had the church done something wrong? No. Is this punishment from God? No. This punishment is from men. The church scattered, the apostles remained. Emotionally, this is a devastating blow to go from the victory, boldness, and blessing that seemed to be the norm in the first 6 chapters of Acts. For they made great lamentations over him [Stephen]. Make no mistake, God is still in control. We would do well to remember these times in Jerusalem when our ears are being tickled with prosperity doctrine that ignores the reality of the Gospel, or when we are encouraged to anchor our faith to our emotions. Our faith needs but One Anchor, and that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us continue…

Acts 9:1-9 (ESV) 1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

We are pausing here, to note that as yet we do not have the Call of God upon Saul’s life. Only that Jesus saw fit to stop Saul from sinning against Him. Jesus stepped in. Jesus intervened. He made Himself known to Saul, in a powerful, and divine way. Saul needed to repent, as do all who are born in sin. I think it is worth noting that Saul’s response realizing he was woefully in the wrong and persecuting the Son of God. He neither ate nor drank for 3 days (and I think he’d have gone longer had God not sent someone to him). Let’s continue reading…

Acts 9:10-20 (ESV) 10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name. 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”

So many things going on in this passage.  Very clearly, we see the Calling that God has placed on Saul in v15… and just as quickly we see that this would be an extremely heavy burden to bear, where it not for the fact that God is the one who completes the works He has started. Now, remember at the start of this series that I said that these “phases” I’m using to break down the Call, Apprenticeship, and Ministry might not always be distinct phases. Paul wasn’t without training. It’s not like he was all zeal and no substance. His zeal was anchored in his understanding of the scriptures. He was dead wrong because he was dead in sin. Let’s look at how he describes himself later:

Philippians 3:3-6 (ESV) 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Galatians 1:11-24 (ESV) 11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when He who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by His Grace, 16 was pleased to reveal His Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. 20 (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.

Paul makes it abundantly clear, time and time again, that he was dead in his sin and it was but by the Grace of God that He chose to reveal His Son Jesus to Paul. Paul needed no further teaching because he had already studied and memorized the Law and the Prophets (as to the Law, a Pharisee) and everything he was doing while dead in his sin he did in accordance with the Law (as to righteousness under the law, blameless) to punish the blasphemy. For you see, there is no middle ground with respect to the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Either He is the Son of God, being equal to God, and having been with God since the beginning, or He is a liar and a blasphemer. There is NO OTHER OPTION. What Paul (then Saul) lacked, was the revelation that Jesus was not a man making empty claims of deity, Jesus is in-fact the Son of God. Once that revelation was given to him by the Grace of God, Paul was then able to accept who Jesus really is. As Jesus spoke identifying Himself as the Bread of Life there is a comment He makes that I feel is reflected in the story of Paul’s conversion, John 6:43-44 (ESV) Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…”

Paul was immediately ready to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And all who heard of Paul’s conversion, glorified God. God uses Paul mightily as His Apostle to the Gentiles. God inspires Paul to write 15 epistles to the churches, two of which contain such marvelous examples of seeing the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the Old Testament (Hebrews and Romans). He was not alone in this, for when we look at Stephen’s final sermon, and look at Peter’s sermons, we’ll see that truly all of the Apostles had their understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ grounded in the Law and the Prophets. In closing, I’d like to share a wonderful quote from Graeme Goldsworthy… that I put into a graphic for a different purpose, but I think it works well here, too.

fbbanner

May the Lord bless and keep you always,
In Him,
Jorge

Discipleship: Calling, Apprenticeship, & Ministry II

Apprentice

Repro. of painting by Emile Adan, copyrighted by Braun & Co., N.Y.

When I felt the push to explore this theme of Discipleship throughout the Old Testament, I had initially purposed to move through the Old Testament chronologically. However, I think that as long as I do a good job of identifying the Calling of each individual, I can skip to the more popularized figures of the Old Testament so that we aren’t always introducing readers to new characters; rather, we can begin with individuals whose stories most Christians feel they know well. In today’s post, I’d like to take a look at Gideon.

Gideon

So, I’d like to move forward a bit into the era of the Judges. The Lord God has led Israel into the promised land under Joshua’s leadership. To this point, however, Israel has failed to fully eradicate the inhabitants of the Promised Land. So after Joshua’s death, Israel sins, God raises up a judge to deliver Israel, and then Israel sins again. Most recently, God delivers Israel from the hand of Jabin, king of Canaan and the land goes undisturbed for 40 years. Now, we pick up our story in Judges Chapter 6.

Judges 6:1-6 (ESV) 6 The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years. 2 And the hand of Midian overpowered Israel, and because of Midian the people of Israel made for themselves the dens that are in the mountains and the caves and the strongholds. 3 For whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them. 4 They would encamp against them and devour the produce of the land, as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel and no sheep or ox or donkey. 5 For they would come up with their livestock and their tents; they would come like locusts in number—both they and their camels could not be counted—so that they laid waste the land as they came in. 6 And Israel was brought very low because of Midian. And the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord.

Oh my… another period of sin. The Lord God gives them over to Midian for 7 years. Discipline often requires punishment. The Midianites and the Amalekites are a ruthless, ungodly people about whom Israel was instructed to completely eradicate. The Lord God waits for His people to cry out for help. The answer He first sends comes in a formal rebuke (Discipline always involves rebuke of wrong-doing).

Judges 6:7-10 (ESV) 7 When the people of Israel cried out to the Lord on account of the Midianites, 8 the Lord sent a prophet to the people of Israel. And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I led you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of slavery. 9 And I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 And I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.’ But you have not obeyed my voice.”

Ouch. The Lord God heard the cry of Israel, and He was going to send help, but they needed to understand that their predicament was not “bad luck” or “neglect”; rather, it was punishment. The Lord God making it absolutely clear to them of His Sovereignty, His mighty hand, and His promise. Now, once again, the Lord God will call from among His people a Judge.

Judges 6:11-16 (ESV) 11 Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. 12 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” 13 And Gideon said to him, “Please, sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” 14 And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” 15 And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” 16 And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.”

The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor… When men “call” on someone, we are limited in what we know of them, or in what we hope may be in them. The Lord God knows no such limitation. When the Lord God calls Gideon a mighty man of valor, He is not necessarily referring to that which stands before Him (or as some would call “seeing something undiscovered within him”)… threshing wheat in a wine-press rather than on a threshing floor… He is speaking it into existence, for He is with Gideon to make it so. I love how Gideon’s first response isn’t even about the irony in being called a mighty man of valor in his present circumstance, but he struggles to accept the first part of the statement, “The Lord is with you“. He knows full well the history of what the Lord God has done for Israel in the past (perhaps he even heard the rebuke that came from the prophet sent by God?) and he has fully accepted that Israel’s present condition is punishment for disobeying the Lord God. Additionally, notice how Gideon clearly makes the case that he had done nothing… nothing… worthy of the Call of the Lord God on his life. The youngest in his household, the weakest clan of the tribe of Manasseh.  We’ll find out later that his father, Joash, had built an altar to Baal and complete with the Asherah. Evil in the sight of the Lord. God demonstrates a great deal of patience with Gideon, as his response to the Call of the Lord God involves a lot of hesitation and requests for confirmation by signs. Definitely not a prescription for how one should respond to the Call of God… except… that Gideon answered the call and submitted to the calling of the Lord God.

As with any apprenticeship, the Master instructs, tests, admonishes, and rewards the apprentice in his growth. As you’ll read on (please, I urge you to read the rest of chapter 6 and chapter 7 on your own, so that I need not include it within the text of this post), you’ll see that the Lord gives Gideon step-by-step instructions and encouragement so that he will learn to trust in the Lord God and in the Calling God had placed upon him. The Lord delivers the camp of Midian into the hand of Gideon. Now let’s go to chapter 8:

Judges 8:1-3 (ESV) 8 Then the men of Ephraim said to him, “What is this that you have done to us, not to call us when you went to fight against Midian?” And they accused him fiercely. 2 And he said to them, “What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the grape harvest of Abiezer? 3 God has given into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. What have I been able to do in comparison with you?” Then their anger against him subsided when he said this.

With this encounter, Gideon has graduated his apprenticeship and is now walking in his calling (his ministry) as a mighty man of valor. When the men of Ephraim accuse him of basically seeking to deprive others of their share of the glory, Gideon remembers the Word of the Lord, and that it must be known that to God be the glory for this victory. God fulfills His promise to Gideon, and to Israel and saves them from the hand of Midian. At the end of Gideon’s ministry, he again credits everything to the Lord God

Judges 8:22-23 (ESV) 22 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” 23 Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.

Sadly, the nation of Israel does not remain faithful, and even Gideon falters. For you see, what Gideon did right, was to believe in the Lord God. Everything else, was accomplished by God, and through God, to preserve the Promise of God to one day bless all the nations of the earth through the offspring of Abraham, that is, Jesus Christ. And with that thought, I’d like to leave you with this thought from the Apostle Paul:

Philippians 1:1-11 (ESV) 1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Amen. I pray you have a wonderful weekend, and may the Lord bless and keep you always,
In Him,
Jorge

Discipleship: Calling, Apprenticeship, & Ministry

Apprentice

Repro. of painting by Emile Adan, copyrighted by Braun & Co., N.Y.

So, we’ve spoken a bit about delegated authority within the Scriptures. I’d like to continue in that thought by looking at several examples throughout the Old Testament. But I don’t want to lose sight of the end-goal of this series, so I want to anchor each post in this series in the Great Commission found in the book of Matthew:

Matthew 28:16-20 (NASB) The Great Commission
16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

This is our mission. All of the scriptures are about Jesus Christ, and He left us with this charge before He ascended into Heaven. The book of Mark also records the Great Commission and summarizes the portion that I want to focus on for this study. The two accounts should be taken together. I believe that a strong case can be made for the modern church having made huge strides at following the “preaching the Gospel” as summarized by Mark (though the argument wains a bit when we look at the signs that follow believers)… but what I struggle to find is a modern-day understanding of “making disciples”. I suspect it will become increasingly difficult to connect or appreciate what it means to make disciples or to even be a disciple, because I believe that culturally we have lost sight of the concept of apprenticeship. Why? I blame individualism; however, having something to blame does not in itself address the problem. So, to explore the concept of Discipleship, I want to start out by breaking down discipleship into 3 major steps or phases: the calling, apprenticeship, and ministry.  Taking the 2 accounts of the Great Commission, we are called by Him through the preaching of the Gospel, then we are to become disciples of the Word (apprenticeship) and then go out and be partakers in the Great Commission ourselves. I’m breaking this down only as a generalized theme, and am in no way trying to make hard-lined separations so that you must be in one phase or the other.

Adam

Let’s start by returning to the Genesis account of Adam and the Garden of Eden.

Genesis 1:26 (NASB) 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Here we have God announcing the purpose of man before He creates man, “…let them rule…”. We have our calling. Our purpose was determined before we were created. Now, on the grand scale, since we know that in the Kingdom of Heaven we will reign and rule with Christ; therefore all of man’s earthly existence fits in the apprenticeship phase… sure, but that is not where I want to go. For apprenticeship, and what that means in our daily walks, lets look at the individual call of Adam.

Genesis 2:8,9,15 (NASB) 8 The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. 9 Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food…15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it…

Here, we have a garden that God planted and caused to grow, and then He places Adam in the garden to cultivate it. Here we have our first apprenticeship. God showed Adam how to cultivate His garden. Adam sins against God and fails his task, sending all of mankind into darkness and cursing the very ground he was supposed to cultivate and forfeiting his delegated authority over to whom had fathered Adam’s sin, the devil.

Genesis 3:21-23 (NASB) 21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them. 22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.

Now, here our phases are broken somewhat, because the story of Adam is one of man’s failure and of God’s Sovereignty, Grace, Love and provision. We’ve already looked at how Jesus came to fulfill God’s plan and redeem all of mankind by paying the debt of Adam, by offering Himself as the Pure Spotless Lamb of Sacrifice. However, even after the fall, we have Adam being given his ministry, “to cultivate the ground from which he was taken“. I also like that we still have Adam being taught by God in that He, “made garments of skin…and clothed them“.

Abram (Abraham)

Let us now jump ahead a bit to another individual about whom we’ve discussed recently. Paul writes in Romans 4 about how Abram’s faith in God was credited to him as righteousness before the covenant of circumcision. Let us turn now to Genesis 12 which starts out with God’s calling of Abram:

Genesis 12:1-4 (NASB)
12 Now the Lord said to Abram,
“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
2 And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
3 And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
4 So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

Seventy-five years old when God first calls Abram! I remember wringing my hands unsure of what God wanted from me as a 20yr old college failure. But I digress, here in Genesis we have a rather sudden and out-of-the-blue call of God to Abram. In Chapter 11 we have the lineage from Noah to Abram, Sarai, and Lot. Aside from some basic family data, the only thing we know about Abram at this point is that God has a plan and a calling for Abram… and its BIG. To this point, Abram has done nothing deserving of the call of God, just as Adam had done nothing to deserve his calling. The Bible… is about God. Also notice that there is no delay in moving from Calling to Apprenticeship, “So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him“. What we will see here is that Abram has a long way to go before he can start experiencing the call on his life. He lies to Pharaoh in Egypt which almost leads to adultery (however, God intervenes), he and Lot have to part ways due to land not supporting both their wealth, and Lot takes the better looking land. Not exactly an explosive start to his calling, eh? Then the Lord speaks to him again

Genesis 13:14-17 (NASB) 14 The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; 15 for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. 16 I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered. 17 Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.”

So, we see here God is continuing to reveal to Abram all that He intends to do in Abram’s life, and for his descendants. In Gen 14, we see 4 kings (Chedorlaomer’s team) come against 5 kings in the region (Bera king of Sodom’s team), and prevail against them, ransacking Sodom and taking with them Lot and his possessions. Abram rises up and defeats Cherdorlaomer and the kings with him and rescues Lot. That’s no small feat, not in the slightest. The Bible is quick to point out to whom goes the credit for such a feat…

Genesis 14:18-23 (NASB)
18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High.

19 He blessed him and said,
“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
20 And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”

He gave him a tenth of all. 21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself.” 22 Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, 23 that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ‘I have made Abram rich.

Abram declines the “fulfill your calling quick” scheme. No doubt with all of the spoils of war, Abram could indeed have made himself a great nation. But he knew better, because he feared the One who had called him, and remembered that it would be He who would bring His Will to pass. Abram’s faith was not in the schemes of men (though he will still falter on this point regarding his wife… but hey… God’s Grace is truly amazing!); rather, it was in the Word of God. In Chapter 15, we see Abram ask God directly, “Oh Lord God what will you give me since I am childless…” and God answers him with a promise that his heir would come from his own body. It is then, that Abram believed in the Lord God and it was credited to him as righteousness (now we’ve come full-circle to Paul’s explanation of justification by faith in Romans 4). God’s call to Abram was a mighty call. And God had to work with Abram for many years. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham after establishing the covenant of circumcision and He had to deal with Abraham both in blessings and in rebukes. Twenty-five years after being called by God, Abraham finally has his son, Isaac. Abraham is 100 years old by the time a son is born to him. In the very next chapter, God tests Abraham. Now, I pray that we never have to deal with this level of testing to move on from apprenticeship to ministry, but Abraham passes the test for which he had been studying for 25 years (since the God called him):

Genesis 22:15-18 (NASB) 15 Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16 and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.

Abraham didn’t do anything to invite God’s call on his life, anymore than Adam did. But what Abraham did after God initiated the call on his life: he believed in the Lord, and obeyed His voice. As Christians, we’ve been grafted into God’s everlasting covenant with Abraham through Jesus Christ, who bore within Himself the punishment for the sin of all mankind. We’ve been granted an inheritance in the Kingdom of Heaven, where we will reign and rule with Christ as heirs and joint heirs.

But what is our calling now? Remember the Great Commission (Mark 16 & Matthew 28). That is a calling for all of us who’ve answered the call of the Holy Spirit on our lives, to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. That is not to say that we don’t have individual callings. God has a plan for each of us made before we were born (Psalm 139:16) and when we are made alive in Christ, He gives us gifts and callings:

Ephesians 4:11-16 (NASB) 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

It takes time, we will stumble along the way, but God is faithful to complete His work in each of us. Not everyone has the same calling, and we really have no say in what our calling will be, nor can we randomly pick a calling from the Bible and implore to grant us that calling. God does the calling, and the teaching, and the perfecting. What do we do? In closing this post (we’ll be revisiting this topic), let us turn to James 4:

James 4:7-10 (NASB) 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

We submit to God. Please know that I am in no way claiming to have succeeded in this myself. I struggle as you. I stumble just as you stumble (maybe even in the same areas). And like you, I put my hope in Jesus Christ. For apart from Him, I am nothing.

May the Lord bless and keep you,
In Him,
FS