Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Did or Didn’t

Who are you, and what’s your job in the Body of Christ? Do you know?

When you and I confessed faith in Jesus Christ from the heart, God saved us, and the Bible says he saved us with certain objectives in view. Those objectives were both general and specific. Unless we were saved in the last six months, I think we should probably know something about that.

Hey, if you don’t have a clue, it might be time to give the subject some thought.

General Objectives

The general objectives of the salvation we have received are spelled out in different ways in the New Testament. The apostle Paul says:
“He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”
All Christians exist first and foremost to live for Christ, not for ourselves. All who are truly saved have this in common. Elsewhere, Paul describes believers this way:
“We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
From this it sounds to me like God has not simply turned us loose into the world to figure out for ourselves how we should live for his Son. The words “God prepared” suggest a little more Divine thought has gone into our calling than some of us are aware. And if God prepared these good works for us, each of us has a responsibility to “walk in them”, because we don’t live for ourselves, do we?

Variety is the Spice of Life

What sort of good works? Well, here’s where we start to get less general and more personal. There are all kinds of possibilities. Paul says that in the church there are varieties of gifts, varieties of service and varieties of activities.

So what’s your place in God’s scheme?

Paul seems to have had a very clear idea about his own calling. He says:
“For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel …”
The apostle knew exactly who he was and what he was supposed to be doing with his life. This should not surprise us, since his experience with Jesus Christ was initiated on the road to Damascus with a revelation that changed everything. Most of us cannot claim that sort of conversion, nor can we claim that our individual mandate to serve God has been laid out in detail the way Paul’s was.

The Chosen Instrument

As the Lord told Ananias:
“Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
What else did Ananias tell Saul of Tarsus? We don’t know, do we. But we do know that Saul, later Paul, went away from that meeting with his eyes functioning and a very clear destiny in view.

Not all of us are quite so tuned into who we are in God’s plans, and that’s to be expected. But I think we can still learn something from the way Paul subsequently lived out a historic set of weighty responsibilities that had been very clearly prescribed for him, and only for him.

Mandates and Opportunities

See, having a very defined sense of purpose as a believer didn’t stop Paul from doing anything but preach the gospel. The gospel may have been his overarching mandate, but in the service of that gospel he often he did whatever the situation required. “Christ did not send me to baptize,” he says, right after admitting that in Corinth alone he baptized Crispus, Gaius and the household of Stephanas. So it appears he did baptisms too, on occasion, despite knowing they were not his thing.

What else did Paul do? Well, he worked. More than a little secular labor, despite being a servant of God:
“We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you.”
What else? Paul could tell the Ephesian elders:
“I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”
That sounds like a whole lot more than just the gospel. And he adds this:
“I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable.”
Paul may have had a very defined personal spiritual objective, but he seems to have been rather flexible in pursuing it. When a need appeared, even if it was something (like baptizing) that was only tangentially related to the mission to which he was committed, Paul was willing to get involved. A man who is willing to work night and day does not usually concern himself that a particular role might be beneath his dignity.

Honed, Perfected and Tailored

Now personally, I happen to think God has honed you, perfected you and tailored you for some very specific spiritual situation. Maybe you’ve found it already, and maybe you’re still looking. Sometimes my life feels like that to me. I find myself in a certain spot in church life and I say, “Yeah, Lord, thanks. This is what I was MADE for. Thank you.”

That’s pretty cool when it happens. When it doesn’t … well, who cares? There is work out there in need of doing. If “Christ did not send me,” well, okay: he either did or he didn’t.

Hey, sometimes a thing still needs to be done. In the long run, doing it may not end up defining you, just as baptizing did not define the ministry of the apostle Paul.

But he did it anyway.

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