But how do we know when we are getting the call? How do we respond?
How do you know if someone wants you to do something? You often get a call on the phone, asking you to meet them for lunch, to help with a certain project, or to babysit their child. You respond by doing it, or not doing it. With God's call, it's often different. I've heard some fantastic stories of God bringing certain people into certain situations repeatedly so that there was no doubt that He was calling them--into a faith relationship with Himself. But oftentimes it's not that obvious, especially if you aren't receptive.
Paul was called by God on the road to Damascus, when he was still a persecuting Pharisee named Saul. It was certainly one of those fantastic stories (Acts 9). He speaks with the authority of experience. Because of that, his words about his call are sure and certain (emphasis mine).
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God-the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 1:1-7
Look back at the things that Paul said that he was called to or for:
1. to be an apostle (to carry the message of Christ into the world)
2. to call others into an obedient faith relationship with Jesus
Then he reminds those in Rome (and also us thousands of years later) of their calling:
1. called to belong to Jesus Christ
2. called to be saints (a general term for a member of the Christian faith)
I have felt several very distinct calls in my life as well. I have felt a call from the Lord to change sinful habits. As I looked over the list of "calls" mentioned in these versus, I wondered if this fit in with the kind of call that Paul is talking about. I think it fits into two places--he calls people into the obedience that comes from faith. Additionally, since I belong to Jesus Christ, I am conforming more and more to His likeness as a part of that calling.
I have also felt the call into service or ministry several times. I don't remember a specific call to faith, because my testimony of coming to faith (which I guess I should share sometime) was more a process as opposed to a blinding light as Paul experienced, but I hope that some of you do remember that call to faith. Perhaps it was those circumstances mentioned above, of continuing to cross paths with people who loved the Lord. Maybe it was the thumping in your chest that was hard to ignore when you heard about Jesus--at Sunday School, a church service, or from a friend. Maybe you are feeling that thumping now, because you are unsure if you have ever entered into a relationship of faith and obedience to Jesus Christ. Yes, you know who Jesus is, you love Him, but are you submitting to His Lordship in your life?
Paul definitely submitted. He left his former life behind. He gave up power, position, old relationships, and his home and his way of life. He surrendered all. What is God calling you to right now? His call does require a response. Is He calling you to take the step into a relationship of faith with Him (for more info on that read this post) ? Perhaps He's calling you into something outside your comfort zone--a new service, a new friendship, or a new level of commitment to Him. Do you trust Him enough to say yes?
Keep reading in Romans chapter 1 if you want to study more before I address my next topic.
Next up: Romans: My Righteousness
Romans can seem very "doctrine-y." Sometimes differing denominational practice doesn't seem to add up, like the issue of predestination (where God has already chosen beforehand who will come to know and follow Him) and free will (meaning that we have total choice). I will try not to teach from one particular viewpoint, but based on this text that we are studying. I challenge you to try to put your own suppositions aside as you study along. Instead of evaluating whether or not your ingrained knowledge matches up with what we are reading in the Bible, determine if what you assume to be true matches up with what the Bible actually says. If you disagree, I am up for a respectful differing of opinion or questions or clarifications (in the comment section).
Index of Romans posts