Since returning from Africa I have been through a period of much disturbance. Some of this has been due to the traumatic nature of that visit, but a less obvious cause of unsettledness has emerged. I have been going through a crisis of call feeling a loss of confidence in completing the vision which the Lord laid before me some years ago. At the centre of this vision was a manifestation of the ascended Jesus in relation to “the restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21)’;a revelation that sent me on a mission to see Christ glorified in all the spheres of culture – politics, the arts, media, law, business, education, science and so on. I have been rather depressed by the question, “Can my ministry really make any significant difference?” The huge dysfunctions in the Church and world and my own meagre resources seem to tell me nothing significant is going to happen, and I am sure many of us feel like this from time to time.
Yet two things have happened more recently as I have continued to pray about this tangibly stubborn and disheartening state of affairs. Through the provoking of friends I have submitted through struggle to the Lord concerning a much broader web based teaching presence in 2013. Much more significantly, I have sensed that crisis about call is something all Christians need to experience. I hope to demonstrate this by considering the call of God in the life of Jesus. Only through sharing the means by which Christ personally fulfilled his call can we fulfil ours. This leads us to Christmas.
Christ’s Christmas Call
Isaiah was inspired to pen the following marvellous words 700 years before the birth of Jesus. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6 ESV). When Jesus came into the world he brought the wisdom and peace of God to us because he was personally the God-bearer. This was the heart of the prophetic message unfolded at the first Christmas, ““Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” (Matt 1:23). Mary was told by the angel, ““The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.”” (Luke 1:35). The significance of the holy God-with-us is interpreted by another angelic visitation, this time to Joseph; “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt 1:21). The reality of the presence of God in Jesus is that he is the one who will liberate humanity from all guilt and shame. All this means that the Lord was born into a prophetic atmosphere saturated with a sense of being called by name for a particular purpose.
Unlike the names, hopes and anticipations our parents had for us, or we may carry for our own children, the deep and exact descriptors of Christ’s identity were given from his infallible Father in heaven. From earliest times the reality of the call and naming of God upon his life was carried in Jesus’ heart with an immense sense of divine favour and indwelling wisdom (Luke 2:40, 52). The subsequent baptismal call with its words of entitlement, ““You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”” (Luke 3:22) confirm Christ’s earlier awareness and strengthen him for the years of ministry ahead. Yet his time of teaching, miracles and healing could never mature the name and call of God upon Jesus life as Saviour from sin.
The Maturing of the Call
The crisis of Gethsemane (Mark 14:36) climaxes in the barren cry, ““My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34). That Jesus can no longer call God “Father” reveals that he is no longer aware that he is called “Son”. For all intents and purposes his name and call have been revoked. Jesus has become a nameless and faceless person – this is the cost and means of carrying away the sin of a world which refuses to be named by God and to gaze upon his glory (1 Pet 2:24). When Hebrews speaks repeatedly of how Jesus was made “perfect through suffering” it lays great stress on the submission of Jesus “as a Son” (2:10; 5:9; 7:28). Such absolute submission of necessity included within it a crisis of call. The depth of the reality of Christ’s call, that goes back to the very beginning of his earthly life, the first Christmas, can only be confirmed by a the seeming annihilation of this call and its subsequent supernatural resurrection. This is how all glory goes to God alone (John 12:27-28). If we are to mature in the purposes of God’s call on our lives we must be conformed to the pattern of the life of Christ (Rom 8:29).
Renewing in the Call
In order to enter into the crystalline clarity of our call to be “sons and daughters to be sons and daughters of the living God” (Rom 9:26) we must, again and again, remember what our Father remembers, “I will remember their sins no more” (Heb 8:12). The times of temptation that the Lord permits us to endure, when like the crucified Jesus we feel as nameless and faceless people before our Father, are moments when he is calling us to mature sonship. A sonship that embraces by faith the (often hidden) truth that the call of God carries within itself the fullness of our identity and the gifts of God sufficient for us to complete whatever task have been placed before us. It is only through the crises of the seeming impossibility of fulfilling our call can we experience the resurrection power of God which alone can transform call from vision into reality (Phil 3:10).Whatever we may feel about our own spirituality from time to time, the heavenly Lamb names us as “called and chosen and faithful” (Rev 17:4). This is the voice we need to hear once again this Christmas.
Blessed from birth with many blessings, Jesus never let go of the knowledge that he was called Immanuel, holy, Son of God and Saviour of the world. This was the Father’s indelible impress on his life. Even in the depths of the darkness of the cross he refused to let go of his identity as the one who would bring the forgetfulness of our sin into the heart of God; this refusal of Jesus to deny his call is the means of our salvation. In the light of the crisis of call we must all endure, I see a new light dawning from this Christmas. It is of course the light of the coming of Christ (Luke 2:9); but within this one radiating light are many lesser lights, these are the lights of each of our lives as we live faithfully before God (Matt 5:16; Phil 2:15). It is as we endure the crises of call with enduring faith that the visions birthed within us by the Holy Spirit will surely come to pass for the salvation of the world and the glory of God alone.