God is actively working in the world. God is also present in our lives. God’s is present in our lives in order to shape us and mold us. His presence is meant to be transformational. He changes us through the working of the Spirit within us as we walk through life with him.
However, our tendency to compartmentalize life hinders this transformational process. Compartmentalization happens because we are encouraged to idolize the radical and the extreme. A lifestyle which appears “average” does not appear to rate high on the spiritual scale. Working as a professional in the academic, business, or medical worlds does not appear to be very spiritual. On the other hand, we can easily classify church activities, mission work, evangelism, preaching, caring for the poor as spiritual. We bifurcate life into the sacred and the profane.
Our understanding of “being called” reinforces this habit. Many of us think that pastors, preachers, missionaries, or evangelists are the ones who get called into the ministry. In contrast, many (if not most) of those who are professionals usually cannot say that they had a call to be a professional. They went to college and then entered the professional world. Some of them have the careers they hoped on getting, the rest saw their careers develop after they entered the workplace. Whether they are doing what they planned or doing what developed as they went from job to job, many do not see their jobs or careers as anything that they would classify as a calling.
The mistake made in thinking this way is assuming that the only kind of calling a person can have is the calling to enter a formal ministry role.
In the Bible there are specific examples of those who had “the call” to go into formal ministry. One example of this specific call is the call of Jeremiah. We read about this in Jeremiah 1:5.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
And before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.
Jeremiah was called before his birth. Paul also had a specific call to be an apostle to the Gentiles. In Acts 9:15-16. God tells Ananias to go and pray for Paul. In telling Ananias to go and pray for Paul God says: “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.”
Paul’s special call is also mentioned in Acts 13:1-2. In this passage the Holy Spirit told the small group who had been praying and fasting: “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
Paul specifically draws his Roman readers’ attention to his specialized call in the first verse of his letter to them: “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle.”
Specific calls to formal ministry happen in Scripture. Yet, these are not the only kind of calls that God makes. Even though Paul had a specific call to be an apostle, he never accepted this monolithic understanding of what it meant to be called by God. In just a few verses later in Romans 1 Paul pointed out that there were at least two other kinds of callings. He pointed out that each and every follower of Christ were given these callings. Paul wrote:
Including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ;
To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.
In these two verses Paul states that each follower of Christ is called to belong to Jesus Christ (verse 6) and called to be a saint (verse 7). Paul uses the same Greek word (klaytos) when he speaks of his call to be an apostle and the Roman church’s call to be in Christ and be God’s holy people. Since this is the case, we are not to view the call of God as only that which sets the few apart for some special ministerial role. All of us are called to belong to Christ and all of us are called to be saints.
What does “called to be saints” mean? Saint (Greek: hagios) is not a word we usually use to describe ourselves. We reserve that status for the few, the exceptionally good. However, Paul used this term to refer to the average Roman follower of Christ. Paul uses the term in its Old Testament sense of being dedicated or consecrated to God. When people consecrated themselves to God they voluntarily separated themselves from all that which was evil. Paul puts a bit of a different twist on this. In his view, God is the one doing the calling. So, God is the one who consecrates us to himself. God separates us from evil and enables us to live in ways that demonstrate we are his holy people. We read about how God does this in the first chapter. When God calls us and we respond, he puts his Spirit within us and the Spirit changes us. He changes our fundamental desires. We find that we actually want to do what is right.
Paul describes what being separated from evil entails in chapters 12 through 15 in this letter to the Romans. In these chapters we see Paul describe a lifestyle that in its most fundamental form is dependent upon God, kind, loving, and gracious toward one another. Paul summarizes the point he is making in these chapters when he writes: “for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (13:8).
Since this is the case, we all have an incredible calling. Not everyone is called to be a pastor, but every believer is called to belong to Jesus and is empowered to love. Paul states this in similar terms in his Letter to the Ephesians. Paul writes:
I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (4:1-3 ESV).
What God wants us to realize is that when we teach a high school class, when we provide nursing care in a hospital, when we balance the accounts at work, whenever we do what we are doing, we are to do our tasks in ways that demonstrate love, graciousness, and justice for one another. When we do our work in these ways, we transform our work from something that is just mundane into something that is truly spiritual. We can do this because the Holy Spirit is within us motivating us, guiding us, and empowering us to act in these ways.
However, when we compartmentalize our lives we become seriously impaired. Compartmentalization blinds us to the innumerable possibilities that lay before us to live for God.
God is calling us to reshape our thoughts and realize that when we walk with Him in our daily life, everything we do becomes spiritual, energized by the Spirit. Driving our kids to school becomes an act of worship and devotion.
God is not asking us to reshape our thoughts by ourselves. God has immersed us in himself in order that he can take us through this reshaping process. God wants to shape our core identity and our values so that we reflect his goodness and grace wherever we are.
How does this shaping process happen? This is the subject of the next post.