Author Archives: Andy Baker

Different: A Different Calling

We throw the term “calling” around quite a bit in the church, but do we really understand what it means? Pastor Craig Groeschel points out that God calls us in three distinct ways. First, God calls us to salvation. He calls us to repent, and then by His grace forgives us. Second, God call us to temporary assignments. This is the type of call most of us have in mind when we think of calling. He may call you to go on a mission trip, teach a Sunday School class, or even make ministry your vocation. While this calling may last a long time (I’ve known people to teach Sunday School for 40 plus years), it has a defined start and a defined end. It may be long-term, but its still to a certain place/ministry/people for a certain amount of time. There is a third calling that Peter talks about throughout his letter. This calling is every bit as important as the other two, but its one we are quick to overlook. This is the calling to live a different lifestyle. In fact, this is a calling EVERY CHRISTIAN has. 

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10

Let’s break down the things Peter says we are called to be in this passage: 

    God’s Own Possession: God paid for our sins by His blood so that we may enter His Kingdom. He suffered           and sacrificed all so that we may live. 

     A Chosen People: Called to be a city on a hill: a shinning example of God’s love to all people at all times. 

     A Royal Priesthood: We are called to lead people in our lives (friends, relatives, neighbors, etc.) to know,             believe, and worship God. 

     A Holy Nation: We are called to not only worship Jesus, but to act and live like Him.

Do you notice the common thread in all of these callings? It’s that we are called to live our daily lives in a manner that honors God and blesses others. Put another way, we are ALWAYS on call for God. We are called to live in a way that attracts people to God (chosen people). We are called to live in such a way that we can lead others to a relationship with God (Royal Priesthood). We are called to live our lives in the same manner Jesus did. We are called to do all of these things because we are God’s possession, called into His Kingdom by Jesus’ death on the Cross. I urge all of us to take a few minutes today to ask ourselves: Am I living out God’s calling on a daily basis? Am I living out the calling to a different lifestyle that God has given me, His own possession? 

Different: Different Values

Of all the ways God calls us to be different than the world, the one we THINK we understand the best is that we have different values. We all know that Christians are to live according to a different set of values. We understand we are to obey the commandments, the teachings of Jesus, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the Bible. We understand that our lives should look different than the rest of the world. Yet, I fear we fall into one of two major traps.

First, we choose to live by God’s values sometimes, while at other times we follow the world’s values. Two major areas we men fall into this trap are in terms of sexual purity and pride. We know God calls us to sexual purity, yet we often choose to indulge in the world’s ways (not just pre or extra marital sex, but also lust, pornography, etc.). God also constantly calls us to humility, yet as men we are often driven by our pride. We KNOW that God commands purity and humility, but we CHOOSE to follow the world’s values out of desire, simplicity, enjoyment, fitting in, or any host of reasons. The second trap is that we sometimes follow God’s values for the wrong reasons. I’ve known many Christians (myself included at points in my life) who view the following of God’s values as making them superior than others. They look down condescendingly on those who don’t follow God as closely as they do, and are quick to judge others. Some of their self worth comes from seeing themselves as following God in a better manner than others (again, I’ve been there). This was a major problem in Jesus’ time, and the reason he found himself at constant odds with the Pharisees, who prided themselves on being purer, and thus better, than other believers. 

There is a common problem with both of these traps: it’s that we don’t always fully understand why it is that we are to follow God’s values. There are many reasons we follow God’s ways, but I want to focus on one very simple and profound one today. We live by God’s values because Jesus (God in the flesh and the Savior of the World) lived by those same values. In other words, we live holy lives because Jesus is holy

Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:15-16

Men, we are SO fortunate that the creator, savior, and sustainer of the universe has given us a blueprint for how to live. Don’t you think that we should follow His plan for life? It is a blueprint to help us live the best life possible, while also blessing others and giving honor to Him that created, saved, and sustains us. We live out God’s values, living Holy lives, because Jesus lived a Holy life. In the process we live lives that bless others and honor God. 

Different: A Different Faith

I want to continue looking at the 1 Peter today by examining one of the things that makes Christians different from the rest of the world: faith. Everyone in the world has to have some level of faith, even in things they don’t fully understand. I have faith when I get on an airplane that it will take me where I’m going, even though I have only basically no understanding of how airplanes work. Its really easy to have faith in something when things are going your way, but when things are difficult our faith tends to waver. If you’ve had a bad experience on an airplane you’re much less likely to want to fly again. In fact, there are a couple of airlines I won’t fly because I’ve had bad experiences with them. When things get difficult our faith can waver. This is where Christians are called to be different. Even when life is extremely difficult we are called to faithfully trust God. We don’t switch religions like we would switch airlines, but we remain faithful amidst adversity. Why? Why do we keep trusting God even when things seem to be decidedly not going our way? 

You, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.   1 Peter 1:5-7

First things first: remember that sin, suffering, death, and the multitude of problems in this world are the result of human sin. God didn’t create this world to be a place of suffering, He created it to be amazing. We’ve messed that all royally up. Yet, despite our mess-up, God came to our rescue. He chose to come to earth as Jesus, suffering and dying as a sacrifice for all our sins. See, God is always focused on the big picture of our lives. God may not take away every difficult you face, but He has already assured that your ETERNITY is perfect. The good news is not that God saves us from all of our trials, but that he saves us from all of our sins. We get up everyday, even in times of extreme difficult, and take joy in the fact that God has already done it all for us. We can never truly fail, we can never truly be rejected, we can never truly die, because we have been given eternal life. Men, get up every morning and rejoice! Rejoice that no matter what difficulties may lay ahead that day the ultimate difficult, death, has already been taken care of for you. That’s a different sort of faith, and it leads to a different and much more joyful life. 

Different

 

Whether or not we want to admit it, the majority of us spend much of our lives trying to fit in. We dress a certain way because it helps us fit in with our friends. We speak a certain way because it helps us fit in with a certain crowd. Our behavior can also vary greatly. At home we try to maintain the image of the loving husband and father, around our buddy’s we cultivate the image of the manly man, at work we’re the model employee to the boss, and the fun loving guy whose not afraid to make fun of the boss when the boss is not around. Yet, are we really meant to be a people who fit in? Are we called to be chameleons, constantly fitting into wherever situation we’re in? The truth is, God has called us to be DIFFERENT then anyone else. He has formed us, equipped us, and commanded us to be different, standing out in this world rather than fitting into it. 

Over the next month we’re going to be looking at the book of 1 Peter. This is a book all about standing out and being different in the world. Peter wrote this letter to churches that were struggling to find their way amidst difficult circumstances. Rome had experienced a great fire that leveled the entire city. The fire had actually been instigated by Emperor Nero, who wanted to rebuild the city in his own image. Needing to blame someone, he decided upon the Christians, who were a new and rapidly growing religious group. He authorized and encouraged an empire wide persecution of Christians. Many Christians were jailed and/or killed, and many churches destroyed. It suddenly became very difficult and dangerous to be a Christian anywhere in the Roman Empire. Many Christians started thinking that perhaps it was just best to temporary fit in with everyone else, and with their lives on the line one could hardly blame them. It was to these persecuted and frightened Christians that Paul was addressing his letter. He says so many amazing things in this letter (which is why I want to look at it over the next month), but I want to leave us with one verse this week.  

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,  since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-16

We are not created, gifted, saved, and called to be like everyone else. The one who created us, gifted us, saved us, and called us wants us to be different. He wants us to be like Him. He wants us to be like Christ. That’s a big ask, but its an important ask. I pray that we are all willing to step out and trust God to help us explore and live lives that our different. 

Ending Friendly Fire

A lot has changed in ministry since the days of Jesus, Peter, and Paul (like the fact I can write in Nicaragua, hit “Publish,” and instantly share it with the world). Here’s one extremely unfortunate constant: the body of Christ continues to fight against itself. The problem has been with the Church since the beginning. The religious leaders did not like what Jesus was teaching, and eventually had him killed for it. Jesus’ own Disciples disagreed with one another, jockeyed for position, and even rebuked Jesus. In the years after the resurrection debates waged over leadership, circumcision, who the gospel should be preached to, worship, etc. When we read the letters of the Apostle Paul we quickly see that he was constantly having to “put out fires” in church after church. And the history of the church does not exactly get better after Bible times! As one of my seminary professors put it, the history of the church can be summed up like this: 2,000 years of humans trying to tear apart what Christ built. 

Yes, the Church has accomplished MANY great things in the name of Christ over the past 2,000 years. I love the Church and the impact it has had, and continues to have. But, my heart also breaks for all the fighting that occurs. I’m guessing I don’t need to offer a detailed explanation about fighting in the church, as you’ve all likely experienced it firsthand. I’ve come to the conclusion that we all have two options in the face of this problem: we can keep complaining about, it or we can start being part of the solution. Paul lays out the basics of the solution:

Speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy. And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.  Titus 3:2-5, 14

Let me break that down for us into some simple points 

  1. Remember the belief we all share: that Jesus died to save us. That uniting belief is much greater then any disagreement we may have. 
  2. Never speak poorly of others. Correct if you must (with love and respect), but never seek to tear down and cause hurt. 
  3. Love and respect should govern our interactions. We can (and will) disagree on a host of things, but that should never lead us to stop loving others or showing them the respect they deserve as brothers and sisters in Christ 
  4. Remember that we are to do good works and to be fruitful. Stop getting lost in preferences, and always focus on bearing fruit for God’s Kingdom. 

Let us strive to strengthen the Body of Christ so that it can truly be a shining light for God on this earth. 

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