Friday, February 21, 2014

What's "of God" and What's Not?

I see much striving among Christians, especially younger ones who are in the phase of life where major decisions are being made, to find certainty and confirmation of that one God-ordained course of action. 

And the result is that many fall into the trap of interpreting their course of study in college, where they work and serve in ministry, and who they date or marry as a specific “of God.” 

For example, perhaps a Christian studies a foreign language in college and becomes fluent. They have labeled this pursuit of language as being “of God.” But when they graduate, they find themselves in a situation where they will not be using that language in ministry or work, and won't be going to the country where it is spoken. So, in hindsight, was the learning of that language truly “of God?”

Or how about this scenario: “My boyfriend is ‘of God.’” But what, then, is the boyfriend after he breaks up? People will reason that the break-up is also “of God.” But then, what we are in fact saying is, whatever unintentionally happens to us is “of God ” and whatever we choose intentionally is “of God,” resulting in the whole concept going out the window! If everything is specifically “of God,” then what is left to be not of God?”

See how finicky this concept can be? See how it could cause one to second-guess and doubt and look for “signs” for greater clarity? 

I would like to propose a modus operandi which focuses on what is “of God” for us and our life as stated in Scripture

People use the term “of God” interchangeably with “God’s call” (usually in the very narrow context of “for my life, i.e. my spouse, my place of residence, my ministry, my job”). So let’s look at that. What is God’s call, and thus, “of God” for us? Here is some Scriptural clarification:

Colossians 3:1-3“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

Colossians 3:5-10 – “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him"

Colossians 3:12-17 – “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”

Colossians 3:23-24“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Peter 2:18-21“Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,”

1 Peter 3:8-12 – “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For,
“The one who desires life, to love and see good days,

 Must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. 
 “He must turn away from evil and do good;
 He must seek peace and pursue it.
 “For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous,

And His ears attend to their prayer, 

But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

2 Peter 1:1-11“Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through
them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Many Christians have gotten it backwards. They are preoccupied with finding the boyfriend/ girlfriend/spouse that is “of God,” or the job that is “of God,” or the country in which they will live as “of God” that they miss the real point “of God.” And it is this: to be conformed in likeness to Christ and to glorify Him.

Scripture does not teach, in my reading of it, there being one place carved out just for each of us, or one mate, language, university or career. Scripture guides us in how to be in relationship with the one we are married to, our children, the one we work with, and the authority over us and those we live amongst. To my knowledge, the Bible does not say “The Lord your God has chosen one woman just for you and you must spend your life finding her.” It also doesn’t say “The Lord your God has chosen one place for you to serve and you must discover what that is.” No. 

Scripture spends its time guiding us in how to be Christ-like in all circumstances. Aside from general guidelines on marriage (such as purity beforehand, the “call” to marry a Christian and abundant warnings in Proverbs about the kind of person not to marry), most of the discussion of marriage in Scripture is on how to be Christlike in the marriage in which we find ourself! 

Certainly we have the Holy Spirit to guide us. Jesus Himself said He would send the Counselor to guide us into all truth. And we can listen to the Holy Spirit, knowing that the Bible never prescribes “thee one” woman, man, friend, place, or ministry. We are to test whether the job, ministry position, potential boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse is in line with Scripture and if the Holy Spirit is giving us peace about our decision.

The point being, that if we spent as much time realizing our “call” “of God” to become more and more Christ-like in our inner person, then all the outer decisions would fall much more organically into place. We would recognize what to do when we saw it because we would be spiritually mature.

Matthew 6:25-34 is the magnum opus of this idea:
“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? 
You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”