Christmas Reflection Part 2: The Call of the King

In my last entry I reflected on the Christmas season and how the coming of the King was perfectly orchestrated by God to show up in just the right place on the planet, at just the right time in history, and in just the right conditions to see the Gospel spread like wildfire and proclaim God’s offer of salvation to all who would receive it. The coming of the King is such a vital part of history that for millennia we have hinged the two separate parts of history on the point of his birth (B.C. and A.D.). This is what Christmas is all about; that God would put on skin, live a perfect life, and die the sacrificial death we all deserved to die for our disobedience to God.

Yet, Christmas shows us that there is so much more than just a baby in a manger. It is a call to live a life that proclaims the Gospel and seeks to draw others into the Kingdom. Jesus taught us to pray that the Kingdom of Heaven should come to Earth and that it should come through us. This is what being a disciple of Christ is all about; not just being a convert, but being a true follower in every aspect of our lives. This call from the King is not optional for those who would seek to follow him. Yet, so many of us sit on the sidelines and expect others to do the work for the Kingdom.

Many years ago I received my calling from God to go into pastoral ministry. It was clear, bold, and incredibly emotional. I have heard hundreds of stories of how God has called people differently and into different ministries. For some, it was through a person and others through a certain experience. For others it was when they read a passage or when they volunteered to help and found a love for ministry they never knew existed. I was at a men’s conference and I heard the speaker read this familiar passage from Isaiah that Jesus himself used as evidence to his own call to pastoral ministry:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free, [19] and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” (Luke 4:18-19 NLT)

It was like a light bulb was turned on inside of me and it lit up an area of my heart and life that I had not known about before. I had been involved in church ministry my entire life (shoot, my mother was church pianist and I crawled at her feet during worship time as an infant) and I had even been a worship leader for many years when this happened. Yet, I felt a weight and a desire in my spirit to begin doing more. I wanted to be part of the proclamation not just the celebration. I went back to college and got my MDiv in seminary and accepted a position as an associate pastor and eventually a chaplain in the Army.

This call was unique and special; it was personal and it was one of the most important parts of my life. It changed who I am and what I will continue to keep growing into as time moves on. It gave me a new identity and a new heart for people like I had never known before. The call to ministry was something I know many do not ever receive but I know that had I failed to answer it that I would have led a life that was empty and missing so much of what God had in store for me.

In life, we all receive different calls. Sometimes it is a calling to a career field; other times it is a call to marriage or even to parenthood. Whatever the call is, it is something that stirs in the deepest part of our souls and will eventually change us into different yet wonderfully new people. I have met doctors who were making millions each year heed the call to practice medicine in third world countries; I have met billionaire businessmen who went from gathering money into meeting the needs of people and have traded in their suits for handing out sandwiches. All of these people had heeded the call on their lives and been willing to make the exchange of the old way of life in favor of the new one their heart desired.

You may have never heard it in your own life, but our great God also calls out to us. The King of the universe seeks to have relationship with each of us and wants to use us to accomplish the mission of bringing His kingdom from Heaven to Earth. If we fail to answer this call we will find out that we have not only missed out on a life filled with wondrous purpose but that we will miss out on eternity with God as well. Yet, the call of the King still exists and still goes out even to this day. We can see a great example of this when Jesus called four fishermen to be his first disciples:

 [1] One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. [2] He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. [3] Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.

 [4] When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”

 [5] “Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” [7]And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! [7] A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.

 [8] When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” [9] For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. [10] His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed. Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” [11] And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus. (Luke 5:1-11 NLT)

Here we see the encounter and call of the King. Last week, we looked at the Coming of the King and how God set all of history to hinge on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. God himself put on flesh and became fully man and still fully God in order to make the sacrifice that was required to create a right relationship with humanity again. Because the King came from Heaven to Earth on the very first Christmas we can know him and receive his salvation as long as we place total trust in him.

Yet that opportunity always comes with a call; God never works in a vacuum. He chooses to use his creation to accomplish His purposes. Why? I’m not always sure. Yet, if we study history and the Bible we see that this is exactly how God operates. Jesus did not need to have disciples yet he had thousands who followed him and the core 12 who would eventually become the Apostles who would go on turn the world upside down with the message of the Gospel. This is the same dynamic that God continues to use to this day; he uses the weak to show his strength and the least likely in the world’s eyes is whom God shoes mighty in His own power.

Just as we saw in the Coming of the King that God orchestrated the craziest events in history to align perfectly for Jesus to come and usher in the Kingdom through his birth, ministry, death, and resurrection we continue to see in how God works in the call to ministry. Jesus did not go to the halls of an academic institution, he did not go to the great libraries or synagogues in throughout the Roman Empire, he did not go to the powerful or wealthy; instead, he goes to the common, ordinary, and even socially cast-off to find his followers. He calls four fishermen and uses them to become part of the foundation he would build his Church upon.

Let’s look at some pieces of the calling of Jesus’ first disciples. These were businessmen who were having a tough day. They had fished all night and were cleaning nets that had caught no fish. Unlike the hobbies of today’s society, fishing in this point in time was a livelihood which could do either very well or very poorly based off of how well the catch was that day. This is the scene which is set when Jesus finds these fishermen and shows up in a real way. These guys had worked all night, utilized business resources, encountered wear and tear on their boats & supplies, paid their employees, and expended their own energy all with a result of no fish to make up for all of those expenditures.

Yet, Peter was willing to humor a crazy rabbi who was traveling around teaching by letting him use his boat to get a better stage. And, as a result, Jesus used this as an opportunity to show up in a most expected place. Jesus tells them to go out to the deep and fish, yet it was the heat of the day when fish were gone to the bottom and could not be caught. Jesus knows what they don’t and it lands them perhaps the largest catch they had ever had. At the very least it was a big enough deal to draw crowds of people to see the catch and they could not draw the nets into the boat due to the overwhelming amount of fish. This was a very big deal!

Jesus did the miraculous and it resulted in not just a monetary abundance but also a spiritual one; Peter falls to his knees and recognizes Jesus for who he truly is: God in skin. He goes from calling him ‘master’ (a word which was a sign of respect like ‘sir’) and then calls him ‘Lord’. Peter recognized that only God could do what had just happened. His financial blessing was not near as important as the spiritual one he would have as Jesus goes on to tell him that Peter and his friends would now be fishers of men. And immediately they left it all behind to follow Jesus.

We’ve got to wrap our heads around how momentous of a situation this was; Peter and his brother along with his cousins had just pretty much won the lottery and set their business up for quite a while. Yet, when Jesus tells them to come and follow him they lay down their nets, walk away from their now flourishing business, and become disciples of a radical rabbi. They had the chance to live in luxury and instead would live in poverty. They could have become social elite but would go on to become martyrs at the hands of the Roman Empire. They traded in a life of comfort for a life of suffering.

This is the price of answering the call of the King. We do not know what the future will hold for us but we do know the One who holds the future. Instead of finding a life full of things but empty of heart we can follow Him and receive a life that is full of heart even if it is empty of things. We know that following Jesus will always result in suffering and persecution; we should expect nothing less when Jesus himself went through the worst death the Roman Empire could conjure up. Yet, for thousands of years millions upon millions have surrendered their hearts and lives to the King. They have been willing to sacrifice all for the one who gave it all in their place.

This is the call of the King. What better time than Christmas to reflect on the call that Jesus gives to all of us? He calls us to surrender our own desires and seek after His. He calls us to surrender our kingdom in order to serve in His. He calls us to lay down our lives so that he can use us to bring others into the Kingdom and to know God in a personal way. The call of the King may mean a life of fulfillment or it may mean a life of sacrifice. It may mean a life of satisfaction or it may mean a life of struggle. God uses us for his ways and purposes and we find rest in knowing that He works all things together for good (cf. Romans 8:28).

As I wrap entry up, I want to reflect on my own call. Being called to the ministry did not mean rainbows and fairies and puppies. It meant hours of study, time away from my family to write papers, time away from my family to do military training, encountering the hurts and pains of those I counsel, walking with soldiers and those in the local church I serve in through their struggles, folding the flag and handing it to soldiers who have died way to soon, and so much more. The price of answering the call of the King is high. Yet, what more will you gain?

Today, the King is calling us. He calls us to serve, he calls us to give, he calls us to us to go, he calls us to love, he calls us to share the Gospel, he calls us to serve, he calls us to be less, and he calls us to let him be more. Will you answer? Will you live an idle life or will you live the life of wreckless abandon for His Kingdom? It will cost you so very much but you will go so much more in return. This Christmas is not just about a baby in a manger; it is also about the King who calls us to bring the Kingdom here on Earth just like it is in Heaven.

Let’s answer the call and, as my dear friend often says, let’s go give’em Heaven!

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