The Bigger Picture – The Higher Calling
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8 -9
The amazing power of God — Life and Creation. Who can comprehend it?
The recently “reformed smoker,” the recently “reformed drinker” and the recently reformed “glutton,” all have something in common. They are experts at spoiling everyone else’s “fun.” They can be the most judgmentally obnoxious and full of themselves people, so much so, that no one wants to be around them. Now surely, not everyone who finds a healthy lifestyle by adapting more healthy ways of living, eating and drinking becomes a “kill joy” to be around, but many do.
Sadly also, some new Christians particularly those who have come out of “church” environments of hyper legalism, empty tradition and little if any knowledge of God’s true Word, take on a similar attitude of “spiritual superiority” once they discover there is more to the Christian life than what they experienced prior to a transformational encounter with God’s Spirit. And they are not alone.
There are far too many who, though claiming faith in Jesus Christ, live as though the survival of the Church depended solely on them to make sure it is not tainted by anyone who doesn’t measure up to their standard of what is acceptable or unacceptable to God particularly in matters of worship style, their church’s traditions and what they judge as sincere worship that is dignified and appropriately modest and restrained to be acceptable to God. I’m not saying we should judge them at all but just understand that they don’t necessarily have the inside scoop on what pleases God.
I guess it is because God has granted me the grace to have served in several different denominational churches; Baptist, AME, Presbyterian, Catholic, Assembly of God, Methodist, Four Square, Independent and with various, well-known in their time, television ministries and evangelists here in the United States and in Sweden, England and Germany, my perspective on the Church is different from those who have only a second or third person view of the people who worship in traditions other than their own.
Let me hasten to say I have in no way experienced every type of Christian congregational style or liturgy of worship that can be found in the world, but I have experienced first hand enough variety to convince me no one has it all and none are any more spiritually pure in the declaration of truth than another. All have some things held in common that are indisputable and some in which they differ widely in their perspective and understanding.
So who is right? If we respect God’s Word we would have to say only He has the answer to that question. The best we can do is live as truthfully and faithfully by the Word and revelation of God given to us by the Holy Spirit and leave all judgment of others to Him.
Jesus commanded us to judge not lest we ourselves be judged. [Luke 6:37] This does not mean that we abandon all standards of Godly living and righteous behavior. God forbid! We must be both discerning and decisive in matters of our faith and in the choices we make to live according to what we know is pleasing to God. And Beyond that, we are commanded to preach the Gospel, to live it and to tell it. We must tell it in everyway we can. We must not be muted by the works of attempted intimidation by the enemy. People need the Lord and the most caring, gracious and loving thing we can do is tell them about Jesus, not to judge them for their sins or condemn for anything, but to let them know that God is real and they are loved by Him.
The temptation for us as believers is to think at any point that we’ve got God’s will and way in our hip pocket to pull out and use as we will at any moment. If we think of ourselves as superior to any person by virtue of our identification as Christian, then we’ve missed the whole point of the Gospel. News flash for us all, we don’t and we are not. Indeed we are blessed and we have been lifted to a high position of grace. But it is grace that holds us their not our superior humanity.
A humble heart is still the most God honoring attitude we can exhibit in all things. Yes, we are to do all things by faith and with confidence in the promises of God, being bold to speak and bold to act on His Word at the prompting of the Holy Spirit. But boldness and humbleness of heart are not contrary to one another. In fact, they are exactly the dual attitudes we are called to have.
“And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:29-30
“The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are boldas a lion.” Proverbs 28:1
“So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” Hebrews 13:6
“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time…” 1 Peter 5:6
“Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.” Proverbs 16:19
“A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.”Proverbs 29:23
“And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”Matthew 23:12
“Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5
So then, what is the conclusion? Left to our human perspective and understanding alone we can never know or attain to the ways of God. But, by the power of the Holy Spirit in us we canknow and understand the will, the thoughts and the ways of God. Our boldness is our faith in Word and in action. Our humility is our acknowledgment that all that we have and know has been and is given to us by God’s grace and to Him alone belongs all the glory.
The bigger picture is known by God alone. The higher calling is ours to pursue.
“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, (NKJV) I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (KJV) Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.” Philippians 3:13-15 (NKJV)