“keep the posture of an upright man, ready for action, expecting further orders, cheerfully and patiently awaiting the directing voice; and it will not be long ere God shall say to you, as distinctly as Moses said it to the people of Israel, “Go forward.”
“What is God’s call on my life?” This is perhaps one of the most common questions in Christianity. Many Christians spend days, weeks and years reading self-help books, bouncing in between college majors, and seeking council just to find God’s special call for their life. For Christians, the priority of knowing and fulfilling God’s call on their life sometimes seems to be second only to their salvation. Luckily for us, God knew this. In the Bible, God tells us exactly what our call is and how to fulfill it. All we have to do is listen.
Last week, we discussed how to prepare for God’s call upon our lives through the Biblical example of Joshua, leader of the Israelites. We saw that Joshua was faithful in the smaller, even overlooked, tasks before he was ever called to lead God’s people into the Promised Land. God told Joshua that if he was to fulfill his call, he must face God’s task with faith. God also told Joshua that God’s teachings were to be at the center of his life and he must obey them in the fullest extent. However, Joshua was reminded that he could never fulfill God’s call upon his life without the presence of God, Himself. For us, it is no different. It is through Christ’s presence in our own lives that we can prepare and fulfill the call of God upon our lives. This concept is important to understand before we begin discussing God’s call for each of us.
A second concept that must be understood before discussing God’s call is God’s will. God’s will is His generalized desire for all mankind, a desire He makes very clear in His Word:
“Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you except to revere him, to obey all his commandments, to love him, to serve him with all your mind and being…”
“Having heard everything, I have reached this conclusion: Fear God and keep his commandments,
because this is the whole duty of man.”
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
“But he replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!””
The Bible shows us that God’s greatest desire is for all mankind to have fear and to revere the Lord and be obedient to His teachings which are in the Word of God. Before we can fully comprehend what God has called us to do, we must first understand that God’s will is the primary objective of a Christian’s call. Whatever God’s call for our lives is, its purpose must be to progress the will of God in our time. No matter what our call may be, it must lead to God’s will for humanity.
Now that we understand both the importance of God’s presence and the relationship of God’s will to God’s call on our lives, we can begin to understand God’s call, itself. The difference between God’s will and God’s call is that God’s will is His chief desire for all mankind, God’s call is a command specifically to each individual Christ-follower. Due to all of the different methods in existence today that people use to find their call, one would assume that this command of God is hard, or even impossible, to find in the Bible. However, God states very clearly the task that He wants each Christ-follower to do in His Word.
“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.””
In Christianity, this is famously known as the Great Commission. It must be understood that the Great Commission is not God’s will for all of humanity, but it is God’s call specifically for His followers. This is the Great Command of God. There are three important aspects about this command that we must understand if we are to understand what God is truly commanding us to do.
1. This is a command not a request
The original Greek verbs in this verse are in imperative form. This means that this is not a request. God does not ask us to go and make disciples. He commands it. So as Christ-followers, we must all seek to fulfill this great command of God.
2. Defining Discipleship
If we are to fully understand the Great Commission, we must fully understand the concept of discipleship. I have found in my own Christian experiences that when other Christians read the Great Commission, they come to the conclusion that we must simply preach the Gospel and save souls all over the world. This is not a bad thing. But the Great Commission is so much more than this. God wants more than just believers in Him, He wants disciples. Christ tells His disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations…” We must understand that Jesus was a Jew and that His audience at this particular moment was mostly Jewish. Therefore, the concept of discipleship is from a Jewish perspective. We must understand this perspective if we are to fully understand what God is commanding us to do.
Today, most people believe that a disciple is one who simply knows their leader. Therefore, a Christian is one who recognizes the teachings of Jesus, believes them and obeys them. However, in ancient Judaism a disciple was one who was consumed with a never-ending, ever-obsessive drive to be who their leader is. It was said that an ancient rabbinic disciple would follow their rabbi so closely that the dust from their rabbi’s shoes would cover the disciples face, hands and feet. A disciple would even live with their rabbi and go everywhere He would go and do everything He would do. Thus, when Christ commanded His disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations…” He is not simply telling them to go and bring the knowledge of Christ to the world. He is telling them to go to every single nation in the world, both Jewish and non-Jewish and make true followers who are consumed and obsessed with being who Jesus was, followers who go everywhere that Jesus went, and do everything that Jesus did. God wants more than just believers, He wants true disciples.
Now, one might wonder how you make a disciple. Jesus answers this question for us. First, within the Great Commission it states that a disciple is one who is baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity. In Judaism, baptism meant to be completely submersed in water for the purpose of being ritually and symbolically cleansed (as long as the water was clean). Baptism is a public symbol of a submersed spiritual cleansing of all immorality and transgressions against the teachings of God. The first sign of a disciple of Christ is one who is completely submersed in the cleansing by the Holy Trinity. They must revere the Trinity so much that they are consumed by Him. Second, a disciple is one who knows and obeys everything that God commands. After one is cleansed and filled by God, one must replace their immorality and transgression with pure obedience of the commands of God. A disciple is one who is not only consumed and cleansed through their own reverence of God but also one who is obsessed with obeying what He commands.
3. Fulfillment through God alone
If God’s will for all mankind is for us to fear and revere God and obey His commands, His call for His people is to bring humanity into the will of God. However, we must understand that both the will of God and the call of God are completely impossible for any human to fulfill alone. This is why a part of the preparation for God’s call is to come to the understanding that we can do nothing without the presence of God in our lives. We cannot fully revere and fully obey God without God Himself in our lives. We cannot be disciples of Christ nor lead others to be disciples of Christ without God’s presence in our lives. This is why God sent His Son and the Holy Spirit to humanity. It is through Christ Himself that we can fulfill God’s will for humanity and His call for His people. When reading the Great Commission we must never forget the last phrase “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Christ is always with us and through Him, alone, we can fulfill what He commands.
Let’s Get Practical
In modern times, one may wonder how he can practically fulfill God’s call. This is simple. God has given each of us skills and abilities which can be used to fulfill the call of God. In ancient Judaism, different rabbis taught the teachings of God through different skills. Some were excellent story tellers, others liked to teach through action, and yet others enjoyed teaching through conversation. Each rabbi attracted different types of disciples. But no matter the method or teaching style, a rabbi would always bring understanding to the teachings of God. This same concept exists today. God gives different individuals different practical skills to fulfill His call in a different way. Some are called to travel all over the world and make disciples of Christ through words. Some are called to be examples of Christ through altruism and in turn show others through their actions what it means to be a disciple of Christ. And, yet, others are called to work at a typical 9-5 job and make disciples of Christ through their day to day conversations. Each of us are gifted with different skills and abilities and through our different skills we attract different types of disciples. But no matter our method of discipleship, we must remember that it is God’s presence in us, not our skills or abilities that make true disciples of Jesus Christ.
God’s call upon His people is something that many spend lots of time and energy trying to find. Yet, God explains it very clearly in His Word. God shows us that His will for all of humanity is to revere the Lord and obey His commands. And this will is connected to our call as His followers. He commands us to reveal to the world the will of God. We must teach others what it means to revere God so much that we are submersed in Him, we must show others what it means to truly obey His commands. God has given each of us special abilities and skills so that we may fulfill this calling of His. However, we must never forget to prepare and enter into His calling with the understanding that we can accomplish nothing without His presence. It is through Him, alone, that we can fulfill our call and it is through Him, alone, that His will is revealed to all of humanity.