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Calling Is About Obedience, Not Identity

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How many of you have had someone say to you, or you’ve even said it yourself? - God has an amazing calling on your life.
How does that make you feel? Needed, Seen, Special
One of the things I often hear in Christian circles, especially among young people, is a desire to find the answer to this question:
“What is God’s calling on my life?”
I’ve been there at many times in my life
And it can feel overwhelming at times, especially when it doesn’t seem like God is saying anything.
So today, I want to talk about calling....and share some thoughts and studies I’ve done around this topic. (a couple months of writing things down)
The goal of today is not to answer the question of “What is God’s calling on my life”, but to hopefully give us clarity and a proper mindset on how to engage the topic of “Calling”
I think when we ask the question “What is God’s calling on my life?” without clarity and a proper mindset, it can produce a result that is the opposite of its intended purpose, I’ll talk more about that later.
So, for clarity sake, we have to start off by defining what “Calling” is.
“Calling” might mean something different to different people…depending on the context it’s used in, your understanding of what it means, church culture, etc...
Let’s start by looking at three of the common ways that “Calling” is used
These definitions or types of calling are not necessarily based on word studies from Scripture, but rather from typical usages of the word based on our understanding.
So three different ways the word “Calling” is used, and then we are going to hone in specifically on one of them.

Passion/Giftedness Calling

I’ve heard this calling defined as this: Your calling lies at the intersection of three important areas: your strengths, interests, and what benefits others. When these three forces are all at play, you are doing what you were born to do.
What do you enjoy and what does the world need?
When you only enjoy something, it's not your calling from God. It's a hobby.
When you help people but don't enjoy it, it's not a calling from God it's a job.
But God's calling on your life will be the place where your passion and gifting meets the world's needs.
Giftedness Calling is something that God places inside of you in the form of your strengths and interests to be a benefit to others.
This can be a process of discovery
I didn’t know I had a teaching gift until I was given the opportunity and started doing it.
So sometimes when someones says, “God has a great calling on your life,” it’s not always meant to communicate a prophetic mandate that God has on your life, but rather to say “I see gifts in you that God is going to use mightiily for his glory.
That is the first way in which the word “Calling” is used

General Christian Calling

A general calling is something that every Christian is called to
Many of the times that you see the word “calling” in the New Testament, it is this general Christian calling that is being refered to.
1 Corinthians 1:26-31 “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.””
Call to salvation, to righteousness, to holiness.
2 Thessalonians 1:11 “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power,”
A call to holiness and good works
Hebrews 3:1 “Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession,”
Our call to of belonging to our heavenly Father.
Ephesians 4:1-4 “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—”
A call to sonship, to unity, to holiness
We are called to make disciples, to love one another, to walk by the Spirit, to servanthood
We may have different giftings, strengths, and talents, but we are all called to this life as a Christian.
In one sense, this calling has more to do with who you are than what you do.
I am a son or daughter of God, and therefore I do the things I do.
I am saved by faith
I am Holy and set apart in Christ Jesus
I am part of the body of Christ
There is this sense of identity and belonging involved in the general calling.

Specific Divine Calling

In my conversations, this is what most people think about when they think of calling
A divine calling is totally orchestrated by God to use you as a vessel to carry out a particular role at a particular place, for His purposes.
It is unlike the General Christian Calling in the sense that not everyone is called to it.
It’s unlike the Giftedness calling in the sense that what God is calling you to might not always involve only aspects of your strengths and giftings, but maybe even your weaknesses.
It is a very specific, and “unique to you” role that may or may not always align with your strengths and experiences.
David Wilkerson called to the Gangs of New York City.
Moses was called to deliver the Israelites from the oppression of Egypt
Saul/Paul was confronted on the road to Damascus and given a divine revelation and mandate.
Pastors today....God called me to go to this specific church, at this specific location and pastor it.
It’s this last type of calling that I want to hone in on
With that understanding…the title of my message this morning is “Calling Is About Obedience, Not Identity
Let me explain why and what I mean by that.

Mindsets Problems

This is important because:
Problems arise when we come with certain mindsets or expectations concerning Divine Callings.
Let me give you 3 problems in how we understand and engage God’s calling

Problem #1 - Prioritizing Searching for the Divine Calling

We are familiar with the problem of running from God’s calling
The famous story of Jonah who was swallowed by the big fish is a story of a man who knew what God was asking him to do, and he ran from it.
But whats wrong with prioritizing searching for the divine calling?
“God has an amazing call on your life”
This is often said to convey a sense of purpose
So naturally, people spend time searching for the divine call by
God: God, what is your calling on my life?
Others: How can I know God’s calling on my life?
Fear: What if I miss God’s calling?
And if we aren’t careful our lives begin to center around searching for this specific calling on our life, as if our purpose in life or identity depends on it.
What happens is, what started out conveying a strong sense of purpose, ends up leaving us with a crushing pressure.
How many people stress themselves out trying to figure out what this specific calling on their life is?
I don’t look at my phone trying to anticipate when my dad is going to call, I just answer it when He does.
And God’s there saying, “I didn’t call you to anything specific.”
Be a good Christian
Pursue me with all your heart
Love your husband or wife
Raise a Godly family
Do your work as unto me
Don’t get so caught up in seeking out your call, seek the God who calls you, and you’ll end up where you need to be.
Instead of spending so much time searching for a unique calling, pray that God’s will to be done.

Problem #2 - Universalizing the Experience of the Divine Call

Not everyone has the same experience…sometimes a calling happens in a moment, and at other times it may begin to unfold over the process of serveral years as you sense God moving you in a certain direction.
And at times, divine calls may come through an invitation or through divinely ordered steps
An example of this is what I call Foresight vs. Hindsight Calling.
Most people when they think of God’s call on their life, they think of Foresight Calling
Foresight is a revelation of future action....Moses is an example of a foresight calling
God appeared to Moses in a burning bush and called him to go back to Egypt to deliver His people
Exodus 3:7–10 (ESV)
Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”
Moses divine calling was to deliver the people of Israel and bring them into the promise land, and God told Him, this is what you are to do.
Hindsight means a revelation or understanding of a situation or event only after it has happened
Joseph is an example of a hindsight calling
If you look at the story of Joseph, you have to conclude that Jospeh lived out God’s calling on his life
But if you look at how it unfolded, it was completely different than Moses’ calling
God didn’t appear to Joseph, and call him to Egypt, like he did to Moses....his brothers sold him there.
Joseph wasn’t called to prison, his Master (Potiphar) sent him there on false accusation.
God didn’t call Joseph to Pharaohs courts, pharaoh summoned him there.
But Joseph was able to look back over his life and say, God ordered my steps and brought me here, so that I might bring salvation to my family
Genesis 45:4-8 “So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God.
Whether foresight or hindsight, God knows how to sovereignly order your steps.
The divine call may look different from person to person.

Problem #3 - Conflating the Calling Types

The word “calling” can get thrown around so casually at times.
We lose clarity when we throw the Divine Calling, Giftedness Calling, and General Calling in the same bag and mix it up.
What ends up happening when you mix up the other calling types with the divine calling is you inevitably begin to Over spiritualize the Christian life and stall in your individual giftings.
For some…to make any decision without a clear and undeniable indication from God is to operate outside of his will and calling for their life.
How this might play out:
I don’t just go to a church....God has to lead me to a specific one, and until He reveals the right one, I remain unplugged to a local body.
God has given me giftings, but until He reveals to me how to specifically use them (even within the Church), I remain unengaged.
Never wanting to take any initiative unless you are led by special revelation from the Holy Spirit.
Never being satisfied and engaged with what is happening in the present, because there is always some big future call you are waiting to receive.
Instead of dealing with conflict and confrontation in a Godly Christian way, you run from it and say, “God is calling me elsewhere.”
And it brings confusion.
So whats the point of all this?
My hope: That people can be free to live in the incredible purpose of the General Christian Calling....who you are in Christ.
Your greatest purpose in life, and your identity has already been realized in Christ.
You don’t need a personal “Thus saith the Lord” to have purpose in your life.
Let me end with four quick application points:

Application Points

Application points for how we engage in God’s calling.
Practice But Stay Prayerful
You don’t need permission to operate in your giftings
There may be times where God asks you to lay something down for a season.
Live in the incredible purpose of the General Christian Calling.
Someone put it this way: The calling to follow Christ lies at the root of every other calling.
Follow Christ in your how His Word tells you to live, grow in your relationship with Him, use your giftings for His glory.....but always be open to what God might be saying.
Pray about everything.
Plan But Stay Pliable
It’s ok to take action, initiative, to plan
Acts 16:6-7 “And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.”
Don’t get tunnel vision with your plans in life.....daily invite God to interrupt whatever you have planned, and be flexible enough to respond.
Be Obedient To What He Last Told you
If God called you to a place, make sure He is the One leading you out
When the exciting newness of something wears off, its easy to start looking for the new thing
What once felt like amazing purpose now feels redundant and familiar
Involve others in the process
I’ve told someone before that it’s incredible “how often God is wrong.”
God told me this, then one week later…He told me this completely opposite thing.
At times it can be very hard to discern personal emotion from God’s leading.
Our Christian life is not meant to be lived in a vaccum of “Me and the Holy Spirit”
Story of man driving on the wrong side of the road.
If everyone around you is always saying something different concerning your calling or God’s leading most likely you aren’t hearing right.
Practice but stay prayful
Plan but stay pliable
Be Obedient To What He Last Told you
Involve others in the process
Your greatest purpose in life, and your identity has already been realized in Christ.
Live in that freedom....when God calls you to something, simply step out in faith and obedience.


If you’re in this room, and you have never placed your faith in Jesus Christ....your greatest purpose awaits you
Your greatest purpose starts with being born again, as Jesus put it.
A - Admit you are a sinner, there is an issue in me that I can’t fix on my own. I’m completely dependent on the grace of God.
Admitting does’t require you to be perfect, it requires you be honest.
B - Believe that God provided that Grace when Jesus died on the cross he paid my sin debt.
C - Confess him as Lord that is in charge of your life from this point on. You let him lead your life
Salvation Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus I believe you're the son of God. I believe that on the cross you took my sin, my shame, and my guilt, and you died for it. You faced hell for me so I wouldn't have to go. You rose from the dead to give me a place in heaven, a purpose on earth, and a relationship with your father. Today Lord Jesus I turn from my sin to be born again. God is my father, Jesus is my savior, the Holy Spirit is my helper, and heaven is my home. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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