John 15:16 “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.”
When I was a kid on the playground, all the kids would decide which game they wanted to play then they would choose teams. You never wanted to be the last one chosen, it usually meant you were the weakest at the game and the team really didn’t want you anyway. Unfortunately, many people have deep wounds from those times of rejection. The sense that you don’t measure up is a recurring theme in life.
One of the joys I’ve had through the years is prison ministry. Going into a jail pod to lead a group of prisoners in what they call ‘chapel service’ is one that began in fear but has transitioned into blessing. The opportunity to express the unconditional love of God to those who feel less than worthy or who think their sins may be unforgivable is an opportunity to bring hope.
When Jesus was teaching His disciples what it means to be a part of the Kingdom of God, He brought a perspective the world did not understand.
Growing, tending, and harvesting grapes was a common theme in the culture of ancient Israel. Jesus related the similarities of this process to what it means to being grafted into His vine. Once grafted, the vine produces fruit, when God trims you through trials and obedience He reminds us where your source of life comes from.
John 15:8 “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”
The opportunity to take part in God’s Kingdom, to bring glory to His name, and to bear fruit is an opportunity that should not be taken lightly. The opportunity is one that has come, not because we are better, have a higher position or worthy of more honor, the opportunity comes simply because God calls you.
The ‘Why‘ of God’s calling
The encouragement to those who accept God’s call is to bear fruit in His Kingdom and as we go He promises to supply all our needs.
Many have taken this scripture in John to mean God will give you all your hearts desire. The ‘name it and claim it’ movement was founded on this concept of self-indulgence with the hope for gaining worldly possessions. Those who have subscribed to this pattern of hedonism have lost sight of God’s intended purpose….His purpose!
When you ask the Father “in His name”, is the key phrase. To ask “in His name”, is to ask according to His will and purpose, not your own. The servant who was called must remember they were called to go about their masters business. The way they find out what that business entails is to speak with their master, understand His heart, know His thoughts, and find out what’s important to Him.
John 15:15 “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.“
The beauty of God’s love for us is that He wants to share His heart with us! He likewise doesn’t Lord over us like slaves but has invited us to be co-workers with Him in His Kingdom. We are called to simply come alongside what He is already doing.
This thought of how to serve God is one that many successful missionaries have understood quite well. Knowing that the work being done is initiated by Him first allows the pressure of success to not be on our shoulders but rather by His mighty hand. The Lord takes the lead, and as we serve Him in His work, He promises many things He will do because of it.
1 Chronicles 28:20 “And David said to his son Solomon, “Be strong and of good courage, and do it; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD God—my God—will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you, until you have finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD.”
This promise David was reminding his son of was the same promise we can rest on as well. The Lord will never leave you alone. Once you are His, He will guide you in the way should go.
Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will guide you with My eye.”
God’s guidance must be the most common prayer in the life of a saint. The promise to guide us “with His eye” is a promise to lead us as we go. The Lord gives us vision for His purpose as we step out in obedience, He then looks for a willing heart for obedience.
So what are the gifts God imparts to those whom He has called?
1 Corinthians 12:4-7 “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:”
There are many gifts of the Spirit, some obvious and some not so obvious….the focus must be on what the gifts are for and from whom they originate. The direction of interest has far too often been on acquiring gifts and not exercising the ones you have.
I’ve been a apart of many studies that attempt to figure out your gifting, and frankly, I’ve always seemed to fail these tests. I may check out as having one gift the first time I try the self test, then a completely different subset of gifts the next time I try it. I know, many pastors who subscribe to these practices are probably well intentioned, I just don’t think they are the best practice for building up the body of Christ.
What is best practice?
Doing the will of God for your life!
As you go about exercising your faith, God leads you into your strengths. The gifts are meant to be exercised in conjunction with obedience to the Spirit of God, not to be held up as if you just opened a gift on Christmas and want to show them off.
What is the will of God?
1 Thessalonians 4:1-4 “Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,”
Sanctification is the process of making or becoming holy or set apart. The process of advancing in holiness is useful for the believer being progressively transformed by the Lord into His likeness.
A Worldly Response
*We are called to become more like Christ everyday. We are to have His heart. We are to desire His will. We are to rejoice in trials and rejoice in truth. Our calling is not going to look anything like the world, to come out of it. A good way to know whether you are being sanctified is if the world begins to hate you. Jesus reflected on the response of the world in the last days:
Matthew 24:9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.”
This idea of the world hating those who have accepted God’s call is not new, Solomon saw this in his day as well as Jonah, Moses, Abraham and all who have loved the Lord our God.
Proverbs 29:27 “An unjust man is an abomination to the righteous, And he who is upright in the way is an abomination to the wicked.”
The calling of God may seem like a self-righteous position to take because it portrays an air of favor. I’ve heard it said that christians think they are better than everyone else. In reality, christians are the ones who recognize they are not better, they need forgiveness of sin and so they seek it from the only one who can give it….Jesus.
A Christian Response
Romans 8:30 “Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
God calls everyone, it is the church that has responded to that call.
You have been called? If you have you heard the call then how have you responded? Did you ignore it or turn your back, did you weigh the cost of following Jesus and decide you didn’t want to lose what you had? Were you afraid of losing a relationship or being looked at as a nut by your peers?
There are many people who are called, but sadly there are many that can’t let go of the world.
Matthew 22:14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”
I encourage you, if you hear the call don’t delay in your response, the day of the Lord is coming soon, trust Jesus with your life and accept this great honor of being called into the Kingdom of God.
You’ll never regret the decision to follow.