Friday, November 20, 2015

An Important Distinction between Our Purpose…..Our Calling…..and Our Responsibilities

By Reverend Mark Hunnemann

Over time I have observed that much confusion and anxiety arises when we don’t have a clear distinction in our minds between: our purpose, our calling, and prioritizing general responsibilities. Though there is overlap between these three categories, they are distinct. My belief is that, once we understand these three categories, and how the each apply to our lives, it can be a life-changing experience!

It was a discussion on Facebook regarding my passion for educating folks about the occult worldview in general, and a biblical view of Ghosts in particular, that prompted this line of thought. I hope it is helpful to you, as it has been to me.

First things first: what has God said is our purpose in life? What should be our dominant life value? I don’t think I need to talk on and on for us to see the immense practical value of knowing the correct answer to this central question. How lost a person must feel if they have no clue as to why they are here. Conversely, how liberating it is to awaken each morning KNOWING exactly what my main reason for being on this planet is…what our purpose is.

The answer is given in below text….

28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.” (Mark 12:28-34)

In response to a question as to which commandment is the most important of all, Jesus does not hesitate to quote from Deuteronomy 6. That thick, 2,000 page bible of yours can be summarized in seven words: LOVE GOD WITH ALL OF YOUR BEING. It should be noted that we first must make sure we are loving the Living God, and not some idol (the Lord is one…..Three in one)
When all of life seems topsy turvy and full of confusion, our purpose in life stands out like a huge neon billboard for all to see. What God wants most from us is to passionately love Him. It matters not who you are, our purpose is the same for all 7.3 billion people who inhabit the planet. We all share the same purpose or dominant life value (or we should) ; purpose does not differ from one person to the next as it does with another basic issue I mentioned.

Many folks wonder or even wander across the globe in search of their purpose in life, but it has already been spelled out for us by our Creator and Redeemer. Again, sadly, so many people feel empty due to not having this one, basic question clarified in their minds.

When we awake in the morning, facing whatever tasks lay ahead of us, loving God with all of our being should compel us and undergird all we think, do, and say. “So, whether you eat or drink, glorify God in whatever you do.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) God does not want business or empty religion…He wants our hearts….our minds—all of us. Our primary purpose in life is to love God with all of our being. We express this love for God directly, but also by loving our neighbor.Who is our neighbor? Everyone, starting with our biological families and moving outwards.
Loving God includes our affections. Scripture tells us that we are not merely to accept the good and reject evil. Rather, we are commanded to love that which is good and hate that which is evil. Or as ESV puts it, “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” (Romans 12:9)
What about our calling? That DOES differ from one person to another, and it generally is connected with our spiritual gifts. In the text below, God outlines the concept of spiritual gifts. That in itself is very significant and needs to be kept in mind if we are to function at full capacity. And it should be pointed out that pursuing our calling is a primary means by which we express our love for God…by abiding in Him while doing what we do, and loving Him through serving others, which all callings have some servant component to them.

In 1 Corinthians 12:1 Paul tells us that we shouldn’t be uninformed regarding our spiritual gifts.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually has he wills.

In this text the same Holy Spirit gives a variety of gifts. Whereas, in our purpose, it is the same for everyone, when it comes to our calling the accent is on variety (vvs 4,5, 6) Most theologians see these lists as representative but not exhaustive….not all gifts are listed. They all come from God as He sovereignly wills,v.11…they are all for the common good of the Body.

Upon conversion, every Christian is given a gift/s for God’s glory and for the common good of the Body of Christ, and brings sense of personal satisfaction….and which may extend out into the world as well.

For a full-time homemaker with young children, I think we can safely say that their calling is to focus on their family! Depending upon the person and circumstances, they may find time to find outlets for ministry to others as well. Hospitality may be an option.

What does this have to do with our callings? Everything! The Lord equips us with specific spiritual gifts to enable us to accomplish our callings.

Before I proceed, how can we discern what our spiritual gifts are? I was around during the heyday of spiritual gift inventories. They can be useful….but, if you don’t have experience in the area God has called you to, then the tests are useless. Spiritual gifts define what our spiritual job description is in the Body. To determine what our gifts are—and a direction for our calling—we need to: ask God to make His gifts/calling clear; practice those gifts frequently; and get kind but honest feedback from trusted and godly friends as to whether you excel in the area you believe you are gifted in. You should get affirmation regarding how your gift mix/calling has touched others. Whatever your calling, it should be some service that you are good at and you are motivated about. God sovereignly designed your uniqueness, and distribution of gifts. Your calling may be your full-time job, or what you do as time allows, hopefully the former.

Your calling and spiritual gifts are intertwined. Your calling is what God wants you to focus on, and He has gifted you toward that end. For example, if you are called to work with Hospice, then what spiritual gift or gift-mix do you think God would have given you? Perhaps mercy…remember, I’m convinced the lists are only representative of many unlisted vital gifts God has given us.

If I may be personal, I am convinced the Lord has called me to teaching and has gifted me toward that end. Once the pastoral teaching ministry ended, Jesus tenderly led me in another direction with my teaching gifts. I believe that the notion of ghosts is perhaps Satan’s most successful and effective deceptive scam on a global scale today. And the ocultic worldview is the greatest threat to Christianity today. So, I want to educate everyone possible.

Calling and spiritual giftedness are intertwined. Since they outline our job description in the Body, then we need to “stay in that lane” (as one friend put it)….perhaps even putting blinders on at times to keep focus in a world in such disarray.

I have been reminded recently that we need to respect each other’s callings, and not expect everyone to share the same passion that we have for our calling.

Lastly, we need to take care that we not let our calling take precedence over our purpose. Loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength is what should drive our callings….an expression of our love for God and our neighbor. Speaking as an ex-pastor, I know of numerous guys who got so busy with ministry, that they lost sight of their first love. (Revelation 2:4) However, this can happen in any calling. We need to keep the horse before the cart.

The third area we need to keep in mind, but is distinct from our purpose and calling, is the responsibility to discern where Satan is specifically attacking OUR generation.
See texts below.

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers,1 by the mercies of God, to present your bodies bas a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.2  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good..”
32 Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, 200 chiefs, and all their kinsmen under their command.
(1 Chronicles 12:32)

Let me repeat what I said earlier: An important aspect of loving God is having our minds and affections transformed. If we are passionate about God, then we will not merely accept or agree that certain things are right and others are wrong. Instead, we will fully embrace and love what God loves, and hate what God hates….both with a passion!

The call to not be conformed to the world, but have our minds transformed by biblical truth, implies that we must be cognizant of the “spirit of the age”. Each generation of Christians is responsible for discerning the chief areas of belief and practice that are especially harmful.

“If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.”

(This quote was first thought to be from Martin Luther—he certainly taught this prioritizing in battle—but I’m not sure who originally wrote it) I’ve always been fascinated with this comment regarding the men of Issachar—they had keen discernment of their generation, and what should be done.
I realize that the world is filled with endless expressions of evil, but we must learn two things. First, ALL Christians (as an expression of loving God with our minds) need to understand the primary issues facing the church today…especially those in leadership.

In fact, Francis Schaeffer stated that the ‘great evangelical disaster’ was that the church was not fulfilling its role in lovingly confronting evil. Consequently, we are accommodating that evil. As I said there are many evils in our world today, but we must prioritize. What I like about the “Luther” quote is that if we are not vigilant of where Satan is primarily attacking, then we are running away from the fight.

Abortion is our nation’s most heinous sin, and if we won’t stand for the sanctity of life, what will we stand for? I am acutely aware that some reading this have been deeply scarred, and my heart goes out to you. However, the bible insists that we have special care for the defenseless….who is more defenseless than an unborn baby? At the very least we should pray about this horror…and do what we can.

On a spiritual level, the primary enemy of Christianity is no longer secularism, though it is very much alive and kicking. The occult worldview is the main enemy of the church today, and as men of Issachar, we need to be understanding of our times.

My calling is to educate people regarding this threat. Your calling is something else, but without distracting you from that calling, we all have the responsibility to have at least a basic knowledge of this threat to the Body of Christ. Again, I am NOT saying that all Christians have to share my passion regarding this occult worldview in general, and the notion of ghosts in particular. A thousand times NO!! But with millions of Americans being sucked into this way of thinking—including an exploding number of children reared in bible believing homes and churches—it becomes a simple matter of compassion. While being faithful to your own calling, will you recognize the need to do a bit of homework…in order to answer your children’s or grandchildren’s questions? All I’m saying is that we need to have the compassion to understand (not be experts) the primary points where Satan is attacking.

Like our purpose, we ALL have a responsibility to understand the times in which we live. Indeed, one way we can tangibly express our love for God and neighbour is to understand the primary threat to the ‘apple of God’s eye’…the Body of Christ…the Church. I want to make clear (again) that your calling is the lane you are to run the race in. However, some issues are so essential that it is our shared, common responsibility to think about them, or we may unwittingly be conformed to the world.

Hopefully, this brief explanation of these three areas, and the need to distinguish them, has been of practical help to you.

Mark Hunnemann is the author of Seeing Ghosts Through God's Eyes: A Worldview Analysis of Earthbound Spirits. It's also available in eBook format.