The notion of “church” today is a very confused concept. When most people think of church, they think of a particular place in their mind where people gather. Or they think of a specific type of organization.
Almost no one principally associates church with a specific and individualized calling on their life. For some it may be buried down there somewhere related to the notion of church. But personal calling is not the primary definition they would give you for “church.”
Church (original word meaning) – ekklēsia – a called out gathering. So the notion of church of God (as used in the Bible) is describing those who have been called out to gather to God and his purpose.
To be part of God’s church, means you are answering his call upon your life!
Now no common dictionary includes the notion of “a calling” with the word “church”. This is because for many centuries, the common use of the word church has had nothing to do with a calling. Consequently today the conceptual understanding of “church” with most modern-day Christians, is very far distant from the thinking of first century Christians.
In most of the epistles, the church was addressed as a gathering that was called to God, for God’s purpose. Here is just one example in 1st Corinthians.
“Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” ~ 1 Corinthians 1:2
The letter of 1st Corinthians is very carefully and specifically addressed to a specific people. And if you look at that scripture, it is a spiritually loaded address! For one, it is addressed to those who are “called to be saints.”
Saint (original word meaning) – sacred (physically pure morally blameless or religious ceremonially consecrated): – (most) holy (one thing) saint.
“For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:7
God has nothing to do with the confusion that we have today of many different schisms of church organizations, and many different opinions and doctrines. At best this has produced a weakened calling of people, divided into groups. At worst it has produced churches full of people under the power of Satan, where they are still committing sin.
“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” ~ 1 Corinthians 14:33
“Churches of the saints” here means those that have been called out of the world’s confusion of divided ideas and opinions, to live holy for God.
Most of the time when people attend a church, they are casually gathering together for a social time. With the thought about what benefit is there for themselves, and if these people (not God, but people) at church will supply all their emotional and physical needs. They come mostly to receive, and not to give. Their notion of “church” is a personal benefits program. Not a calling that completely changes who they are!
But a true calling from God, is not your choice for what you want for your life. It is God’s choice for who he will remake you into. First spiritually, God will remake you into someone that you have never been before.
“因此，若有人在基督里，他就是新造的人：旧事已过；看哪，一切都变成新的了。” ~ 2 哥林多前书 5:17
And from that day forward, he will have further new callings upon your life, to fulfill his purpose. And you will be greatly blessed, as you respond to his calling, so he can choose you for the work he desires to do.
There are many who get saved, who only desire a one-time makeover. But that is not the plan of God. To fulfill his purpose, he will call out to you many times to rearrange you and your life, as much as he feels is necessary to fulfill his purpose.
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” ~ 1 Peter 2:9-12
When it says that the gentiles would glorify God in the day of visitation; the way that God would visit them, is through those who have answered the call. And because they answered the call to speak to the gentile (the one who does not know Jesus Christ), God has also chosen to manifest himself through the one who answerd the call.
This is truly what happens when God chooses you. He will manifest himself to others, through you.
Do you know that when God visited Abraham and called him out of the land of UR, that Abraham never went back? He was no longer of that place of his upbringing and familiarity. He had a calling to a new land, and a new spiritual life of faith in God. He was no longer the same person. God’s calling changed Abram’s name, and who Abraham was forever!
“By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” ~ Hebrews 11:8-10
We cannot have a foot in the old country, and move to the new. We cannot have one foot in the old church life, and embrace the new calling of God on our life.
What’s the old church life? Your church life that never changes. A life that no longer responds to the next calling.
“And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.” ~ Matthew 4:21-22
Did not James and John have an old church life? They grew up learning the scriptures, and attending the local synagogue and the temple. This was their family, and their friends, and even their family business of fishing.
Did you ever wonder how many Jesus called, before he found out who he could choose? The scripture does tell us that many are called, and few are chosen.
This scripture above is of course about a calling to be an apostle. And that’s a pretty serious calling. Most of us will not have that serious of a calling. But nevertheless there is a lesson in how that they responded. Because how they responded, is why they were chosen.
Scripture says many are called, but few are chosen. These were chosen, simply because they responded right away to the call. Jesus Christ began to start changing their lives then. And he continued to change their lives, as they continued to follow him. From fisherman they became followers. And then they became preachers. And then they wavered when Jesus went to the cross, because suddenly they became an outcast of their own society. And then on the day of Pentecost, he transformed who they were again.
The apostle Paul clearly understood this. And that is why he said:
“And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” ~ 1 Corinthians 9:20-22
Paul was quick to allow God to choose who he was too become, in order to reach and teach the lost.
“And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.” ~ Acts 16:10
When God gives you a vision concerning lost souls, does it move you immediately, like it did Paul? Do you have any kind of vision for your personal calling in the gospel? I’m not saying that you need to be like the apostle Paul. But I do believe we should feel a sense of a calling on our life. Everyone who claims to be saved, should feel a sense of responsibility, that has our ear opened and waiting for next direction God has for us, in his purpose to reach the lost.
Now be careful, because too many are used to making moves on their own. So they start thinking and making moves without waiting on God. And then also, there are those whom God has called before, and they did not move. And they still are not moving. But they still attend church.
Many can be connected to people at church, but they are not intimately connected to God and his purpose. Consequently, any notion of the cross being associated with their service to God, is often not a calling that they will respond to.
“And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” ~ Mark 8:34
Idol worship is when we close our ears to God’s calling, and we start to make choices for our own life, and our own purposes. Because, after all, we usually think that it is “our” life. Whether we go to church or not becomes really irrelevant, when the choices are all about what we want.
If we are not honoring God’s calling with our personal choices for our lives, we are honoring an idol. Sometimes people have purposes in their own heart, that represent their self made image of their “god-life”. But God is merciful and faithful to reveal to us when he and his purpose, are no longer our priority.
And when we worship with people who have that same type of self-purposing mind and heart, we are worshiping with idolaters. Today there are many idolaters that worship under the name of Christianity.
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” ~ 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
What does he mean when he says: “I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” How can that continue to be, if they stop responding to his call on their life?
Today under the name of Christianity, places of worship that are supposed to be heavenly places. Jesus brought the kingdom of heaven to Earth, through the church. And so a church congregation is supposed to be a reflection of a heavenly place. A place where God calls, and his word is carried out right away.
So would we consider heaven an organization? No! So why do we so readily think of church of God, those who have answered the call of God, as an organization?
Because people think of church as an organization, today they are bringing their sins into church, and they’re not afraid to hold on to their sins. They are not allowing God to change who they are! Therefore we have this final Revelation message, to come out of this condition of spiritual hypocrisy, amongst those claiming to be the church.
“And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.” ~ Revelation 18:4-5
The message is “come out of her”. The reason why: because she stopped responding to the call of God a long time ago. When people stop responding, they will eventually become corrupt. And a corrupted body is not the bride of Christ. A corrupted church condition, is described as a spiritual harlot called Babylon.
“And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.” ~ Revelation 18:2
Today we are called out of spiritual Babylon, to come to the true church of God, the called of God. To fellowship with those who have answered the call of God on their lives, so that he has chosen them to be his. And God continues to completely changed who they are. And because of this, he has also chosen them to complete his gospel purpose in the Earth!