Beth Moore - The Caller and The Called - Part 1
Here's the beauty of the Word and you know it because if you have some seasoned time in the Scripture, you have this in your history. You have experienced this over and over again, that somehow, no matter how many times you've seen a passage, it will jump out fresh to you, that it becomes something that you may have studied over and over again, and all the sudden, it just takes fresh life to you, jumps off of that page and it is a Word that becomes now to you. And that was this Word for me.
2 Timothy 1, we're going to zero in when it gets down to around verses 9 and 10. But I want to start from the top. It's brief Scriptures anyway. 2 Timothy, this is Paul, of course, talking to him. "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God's will, for the sake of the promise of life in Christ Jesus. To Timothy, my dearly loved son, grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father, and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience as my ancestors did, when I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day. Remembering your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I recall your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and now, I am convinced is in you also. Therefore, I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Instead, share in the suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God".
Here comes 9 and 10. "He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. This has now been made evident through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel". I truly believe that over the course of the 20th century, the church in America settled into a lifestyle of faith that resulted in a woeful misrepresentation of calling. For starters, we conflated somewhere along the way, salvation with church attendance, that we're Christians, if we went to church if someone said, "Are you in Christ"?
"Well, of course I am. I go to such and such a church". And it all got conflated together that really what it takes to know Christ personally, to have eternal life secured in him, is you just go to church. And if you really want to make sure you're saved; you go to church on a regular basis. And all of this was a reconfiguration of what Scripture taught based on a settling in, to a very prosperous lifestyle in comparison to much of the world, that gave us a gospel of convenience. If we're good, God will be good to us. If we're bad, God will be bad to us. And that became our convenient gospel because somehow, you can control that. If I could just cause my behavior to cause God to act a certain way in my behalf, then I am still in control. And I'm God, and he is my servant. And this became, generally speaking, is it okay? I mean how many exceptions, generally speaking, this became the American gospel.
Secondly, we equated calling (this will be very important to us this weekend), we equated calling, certainly this was true in my day when I was a child and a young woman, we equated calling with vocational ministry. In other words, you had a calling on your life if you were going to be or you were a preacher in a local church. You would also have a calling if you were an evangelist that traveled around and preached. You would have a calling if you were a missionary on a foreign field. I can remember even learning that there were North American Mission Board missionaries and I thought, "How odd, that we would still call them missionaries here"? Because you know it would just seem like what really made you legit was that you went across the seas to the other side of the earth and then you had a calling. And needless to say, the only calling a woman could possibly ever have was going to be on the other side of the earth, as far away as she could get from home because all she could do is be a missionary.
Now, I love missions. I was raised to love foreign missions. But every bit of this is a skewed concept of what is our divine calling. Those things might be a calling within the divine calling, a specific direction within the divine calling, maybe not even for the endurance of the lifetime. Maybe for a short time. But it's not the divine calling that he's talking about right here. It's not the divine calling we would see referenced in places like Romans chapter 8 and through the book of Ephesians. You and I are locking in on divine calling. Because here's the thing, if you're calling was simply, it was only if you were called to preach, or you were called to evangelize, or you were called to the mission field, that's means the rest of us, and that would be millions of us mind you, were basically called to be insignificant. We were fillers. Anyone understand what I'm saying?
There were the church pillars and there were the church fillers. There were the honorees and the pewees but there was nothing in between. And somehow, this became our idea of calling. And let me tell you something, it not only is inaccurate, but it undermined the gospel witness out in the everyday world where God intended to send us, into every kind of workplace, every possible sphere of influence. But we got the idea even though he said go into the world, that everything God was doing was in the walls of the local church.
Now, I've already told you I am a church person. I believe in the local community of believers. I don't know what I would do without it. But we got to get some clarity on what our calling is and we're going to try to do that this weekend. In the late 1700s, the great British reformer and abolitionist, William Wilberforce, he would come to the faith in at about the age of 25. His first impulse, after he came to the faith was just to set aside and ditch politics because he assumed, "Listen, as much as I'm coming to love the Lord," I'm putting this in my own words, "I must be called to preach". And so, it was just like throw politics to the side, and I must be called into some kind of ministry.
And it was John Newton who first came to be used of God to talk the man out of it. And what he said to him, and I'm quoting here, "It's hoped and believed that the Lord has raised you up for the good of our nation". And then so here's what happens. He takes time of course, intense time to pray. He comes to the determination that Newton is exactly right, and he is supposed to stay just where he is. He perseveres. At one time, I mean it was like everything and everyone was against him. It took years, and years, and years and years of the works that God had called him to do, for him to have breakthrough. But he is one of the greatest reformers that ever lived.
I want you to try to wrap your mind around that. Championing the oppressed as a direct call of God, he fought for the oppressed as a parliamentarian. I want you to let that sink in for a moment. I love this because it says, I'm quoting out of his journal in 1788. So, this is him talking. "My walk is a public one. My business is in the world and I must mix in the assemblies of men or quit the post which providence seems to have assigned me". Whole different take on it. Because his assumption is what became the American assumption in the 20th century. If you've got a call, it must be somehow within the church. Then everybody else is just filler. But you and I are studying the caller and the called.
So that we can wrap our mind around this thing we call the divine calling in this century. Nominal Christianity in the West has completely unraveled. And our culture is officially categorized as post-Christian. And you know what? There are lots of reasons to say good riddance to that. Because I'm going to tell you something, I don't think it is because we have so fewer believers in Christ as it is that a lot of people that just came to church to come to church, and simply took on the label Christian as that being their world view. They came to a point where it just to them, was useless to go to church anymore and they never did have a real relationship with Christ.
I think what you're seeing now for those of you who are locked into a local church, when you go to church these days and you look around you in the parking lot with people pulling in, and you look around your congregation, and you pass by those women that are keeping all those babies, and you pass by either a community group or a Sunday school room, I mean you can bless the Lord because those people have made a decision in a culture where it has become very uncool, very, very yesterday, very, very archaic, if not ignorant to the world. These are people going, "I'm just going tell you something, I want to know Jesus, and I want to serve Jesus". This is a beautiful development. And these are days for the powerful spreading of the gospel across the globe.
I got to tell you, there is this great conditional clause that is in John chapter 4, and its verse 10. And it's in the scene, many of you are familiar with it, perhaps, of Jesus having this encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in the middle of the day. And he says to her something. It turns over in my mind again, and again, and again and again. And it says it word for word like this, especially in the NLT, you'll see some measure of it in any translation, but I love it just like this. He says, "If you only knew the gift God has for you, and who you are speaking to," if you only knew.
I want to tell you something, call me crazy. I've thought about this all week long because I am convinced that the reason why most people in the faith are not actively engaged daily in the mentality and in the connection of calling is because they don't know what it is. And maybe, I'm naïve because I have to think that if we really got this, there would be no other way to approach life. I just don't think there would be. There's nothing, there is nothing in your life that can compete with this. Absolutely nothing. There's no approach to daily living that matches this. There's nothing out there that the world can do that compares to the kind of approach to life, to our daily living, our daily driving, our daily stopping at a stoplight, our daily pulling in to a Starbucks, our daily pushing through the grocery store, picking up the kids at school, taking care of that elderly parent, going to work every single morning of the week day. Whatever it may be, there is nothing that compares to this.
I believe two things. I believe that most people in the faith are probably not fully engaged in their spirits with the call of Christ on their life. And the second thing, I am convinced I'm absolutely convinced, if they understood what it was, there would be nothing to stop them. Nothing, nothing, 'cause there is nothing like this. There would be no demon in hell that can stop you from this. Nothing, nothing, could stop you. So, what I'm hoping is that God just breaks in with a fresh awe for this this weekend. Anybody up for that? That somehow, we'll go, "This is what I want. This is how I want to live. This is how I want to approach life". This is the mindset of what I am in Christ, but I want to understand what this is all about because this is what I want to do with my life.
So here is the goal that every person here will either awaken or reawaken to a sense of divine calling. So, I mean if you've never had it, you don't even know what we're talking about, awaken. If you've been serving him for years or if you've had this mentality for years, I believe there's something really fresh God wants to do. I believe there's a new season ahead for arrival of a holy calling or a revival of a holy calling. Let me tell you, there are people who will hear their calling for the first time in this sermon, and I'm talking about hearing it not in an audible voice but through the Spirit. Not as a response to anything a human being can say but in response to the Holy Spirit himself reaching into the heart.
I believe that that could happen, but it also could be that what you need in your calling or what I need in my calling is some clarity. Maybe it's like everything's so vague right now I have no idea, Lord, where you really want me focused. Maybe somebody needs some clarity where there's been confusion. It may come as a fresh unction, "Man, I want that". Maybe, there's been just a dullness of heart or maybe more than a dullness of heart, maybe there's become a hardness of heart. Maybe you're mad or offended at God and it's been like, "You know what? I'm cutting you off. I'm clipping that cord". Whatever it may be, it may be a deep dive into the ditch that it's been that kind of a season and this weekend where the fresh voice of Christ go, "Come and follow me". It may be a fresh direction of calling.
I want to tell you something. I'm so convinced, this has been where a lot of sustained passion has come from in my life. One of the things that God did for me, I want to use any part of my story, any part of my experience if it would be of any help to you. I don't have a lot of what someone would need if they were earlier on a struggle in an area of their calling, but what I have is completely yours. But one of the things that happened for me, and I'm so glad it did because I wouldn't have wrestled through the way I did if it hadn't, I was 18 years old when I really knew there was a sense of calling on my life.
Now, I wouldn't have understood that when I was a child, I would've received that then. But this truly was that direction, that calling within the calling because I truly was headed to what would be, and it was all vernacular to call it in our faith tradition, vocational Christian service. Now, this is what I'm telling you, this all got conflated together. But this would have been two different things. I would've been saved as a child but at this point, it became clear that whatever profession I was going to be in, it was going to be some kind of ministry.
Now, you've got to understand something, from my faith tradition, there was nothing for woman to do. And so, it was completely confusing. I was headed to finish out my political science degree, I wanted to go on to law school, I wanted to go on into government and it was just like everything stopped. I finished out my degree but if you want, nothing is more useless than a poli-sci degree. Nothing, when you don't go on to a law school. And that was me. Got my teacher's certificate. I did everything I could possibly do to the thing, well, I don't have no idea what this is going to look like. And so, what happened for me that I want to speak over you, if this really resonates with you, is that I surrendered to Jesus instead of a certain work. And so, it has been everything to me.
Now, I do believe there are people that he's calling to surrender to preach, that that is what they're going to do, and they do it for a lifetime. But I'm going to tell you what can also be a very common experience for the believer in Christ. And this is where I've gotten so much life along the way because I didn't have that mindset. I didn't know what I was going to do. I still don't exactly know what I'm doing, and I certainly don't know what I am going to do. But what the Lord and I have done for all of these years since I was 18 years old is, I've just ridden wherever he seemed to be going. And didn't try to think this is how it has to look. And in a lot of ways because I didn't borrow on that and think it's always going to be this, then we've just sort of had an adventure and let it develop as it developed. And looking at the future going, "What do you want to do, Lord? What do you want to do"?
I thought I knew what was going to happen in the future of Living Proof, I really did. I thought, well, when I pass away or when I retire, it will just close. Well, God's bringing me these young woman, these young communicators to the ministry, and suddenly I'm like, "What in the world are you doing, Lord"? Maybe it doesn't stop here. Maybe I just move out. To be on the adventure with him and not tell him what he's going to do with our lives. "The Spirit is like the wind". It is not like concrete. And what happens is the Spirit will go like... now I'm just giving you a metaphor here, so get excited because once his Spirit comes to dwell in us, he remains with us. But think in terms of the cloudy pillar that would dwell over the top of the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle.
So, they're moving through the desert, taking 'em 40 solid years to do it and here was what God told them that when the cloudy pillar was settled on top of the tabernacle, they would remain there. And then when that cloud got up and started moving, the whole company of the Israelites were to get up and start moving with it. And so, this is what they did. And so, think of it just as a metaphor for us because what will happen is God will move on and we're just like staying right here. We're just going to stay right here because this is what God called me to do. No, no. Jesus said, "Follow me". "Well, no, I'm going to stay right here because this is what he told me to do". And especially, especially, because we love, we get so much security from sameness. "I want to know it's going to be the same".
Never mind, that we've gotten bored and been bored for ten solid years. Never mind, that he moved on out of it, not out of us, but out of that work. We're just serving right there. No anointing of the Spirit with it because he's like moved down the road where you said, "You know, I'm waiting on you. Just whenever". You know, sometimes I feel that what he wants to say to me is, "The thing about it, Beth, the thing about it is I have all the time in the world because I'm eternal. It's you running out of time. You want to sit in your disobedience for five years, go right on ahead. But you're wasting your time. I got plenty of it".
I want you to hear what Os Guinness says. I've got it up on the screen and here in my notes but it's out of this book, The Call. Listen to this, this is him defining the calling. "Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service". It's like the whole person. We've got in our heads that calling is a specific work. It involves specific works.
There are works that have been foreordained for us according to Ephesians 2:10. I mean literally set in time for us. You literally, were timed for this particular generation. You're very much a part of the predetermined calendar that puts you on this earth at this particular time in this area of the world that we'd find in Acts chapter 17. We'd be able to find that supported in many, many places in the Scripture. But what he's telling us here, and this is what I'm wanting you to see in Scripture, is it's just like the whole person. Like when the disciples followed Jesus, I mean they came with their whole person. It was just like, "We're in. However this goes, however this looks, we're in".