The Call To Become
In the well-meaning efforts to spread the Gospel, sometimes people may hear a message which isn’t quite the whole story of what it means to become a Christian. In fact, there are many people who find themselves associated with the Christian community who are likewise confused.
It may be that some of you who have read this far are asking, “So what problem are you talking about?” My concern is that we may be shortchanging the larger purpose of the Gospel message if it is focused only on a decision. Certainly there is a point of conversion when sin is recognized for what it is and a new life begins in Christ. The Bible clearly points to one of two destinies which is the result of our response to the Spirit of God.
Ponder this comparison. Most all of us are excited that the college football season is in full swing. Almost everyone has a loyalty to some team and looks forward to seeing them play either in person or on television. But a football game is more than a kickoff. It is four quarters of plays, some of which work better than others. It is a game filled with huddles, coaching and cooperative plays as well as individual efforts as players in a position with serious responsibilities.
Some people treat the Christian life like a football game with only a kickoff. Certainly the Christian life is not a game, but the game can teach us spiritual lessons. Without a kickoff there would be no game. But if that is all there still is no real game.
Similarly, most players come to the game as rookies or freshmen. They may have lots of talent yet stand in great need of good coaching and lots of practice. Imagine how frustrating it would be to watch a player who has all the potential in the world decide after the first few plays just to leave the game only to drop in occasionally in other games, but never developing the potential or seeing the need to help the team. Of course, that scenario would not happen because a coach could never let it go on. The whole team as well as fans would be demoralized and the goal of winning would be put in serious jeopardy.
The game teaches us a lesson. Joining the team does not mean you have actually played the game. Neither does a kickoff determine the end of the game. I prefer to think of becoming a Christian as a “call to become.” All believers are saved for a purpose. Salvation opens the door to become what God desired for you from before you were born. The Christian life is not “a hop and a skip” from decision to eternal bliss in glory. It is commitment, service and growing in Christ.
Let me illustrate. God called Abraham from his homeland to a new place God would show him. Look further in the Bible and it is filled with God’s call to become. Moses never saw himself as a leader, yet he was challenged to obey God’s call and to trust God to take care of the results. You may recall how God asked Moses what was in his hand. “A rod,” he replied. But when he obeyed God he discovered that what he had was sufficient for the job. Noah would be another who was called of God to become something he never dreamed. Many other examples of leaders and prophets from the Old Testament could be noted.
When we come to the New Testament, the ministry of Jesus with people was a call to become. Men and women were healed and helped from their sins and infirmities to a new life. Whether it was a woman at the well, a man who had been crippled for years or a hated tax collector, when changed by the Lord their lives were never the same. They became something different than they had been before.
The same is true of the call to the disciples. Let me focus in particular on one, Simon Peter. He was a rough, uneducated fisherman who followed Jesus. If God could speak to this hot-tempered, impulsive man, there is hope for anyone willing to follow. It is clear that following was a process of becoming, not an instant transformation. Note that immediately his name was changed. The call to discipleship is a call to a new identity. Remember when God called Abram, He gave him a new name, Abraham. God called Jacob and after he wrestled with the angel Jacob was given a new name, Israel. Simon was also given a new name, Peter, which means rock. The Bible tells us the early believers were first called Christians at Antioch. In a very real sense when we are saved from our sins, our names are changed to Christian. It is our new identity.
When Simon Peter left to follow Christ his circumstances were also changed. Imagine his conversation with his wife when he got home after meeting and responding to the call of Christ. Becoming a follower of Jesus was not for him or any of us a decision which can remain separated from the rest of life. If we are a believer, it will make a difference in the world around us. Sometimes that decision is not easy or met with enthusiasm from everyone around us. I remember a woman who left her husband saying, “I married you when you were a naval officer. I liked the life we lived. I liked the parties. I don’t want to get up and go to church on Sunday. You can have that life if you want, but I am gone.”
Simon Peter is an excellent example of how God can take a crude instrument and use it mightily in his service. Observe a man who polishes stones for a living. On his work table you may see pieces of crude, dark rocks. You can’t see any possibility of beauty or usefulness in them. Let him work on them for some time and it is amazing what you will see. The rocks have become polished stones worthy of mounting in the finest jewelry. What a change? How did it come about? It was his skillful hands the tools of his trade.
In the same manner, God can do the same with us. He takes a life filled with the blackness of sin like pieces of ore which is useless to His Kingdom. Through awareness of the need for mercy and grace, repentance comes and forgiveness is given. As God works to develop the gifts given to a new believer, the Bible says they can become “living stones, a royal priesthood able to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 2:5)
There is an old story ab out a dog chasing a rabbit. The dog was chasing the rabbit just for the fun of it but the rabbit was running for his life. Our Christian commitment is not just for the fun of it; it is a matter of life and death. There should be a sense of urgency and enthusiasm.
William James once said, “Religion is either a dull habit or an acute fever.” The early disciples had a faith which was filled with joy and excitement. They were so excited that they were accused of “turning the world upside down.” The Christian faith is not a burden, but a lift. It does not shackle us; it sets us free. Most of all it enables us to become all that we were capable of becoming.
Jesus walked along the sea shore one day and said calling to Simon Peter said, “Follow me and I will make you a fisher of men.” Focus on the words “I will make you.” There is nothing more challenging or rewarding in life than knowing you have a purpose in life and are becoming the person in God’s Kingdom work He called you to be. From that day to this the call of God extends to every person who has ears to hear and eyes to see. The call of God is not of force, but rather, an opportunity or call to become.