A holy calling is not to works but first, to God. Ministry manifests Christ in us. Consecrated and set apart is us in Christ, yielded to the purpose of God.
who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, (2 Timothy 1:9)
Having a ‘calling’ is what most believers aspire to sooner or later. It’s not a bad thing to want to serve the Lord. A calling provides vision, encouragement, focus, and reminds us of our identity and authority in Christ. It gives us daily purpose and provides an impetus to overcome inertia and procrastination. The danger is when the ‘calling’ is man-made rather than a holy calling. We shape a purpose where we feel we fit rather than waiting for God’s leading. He isn’t interested in our works or what we’re able to achieve without Him. If He hasn’t yet released our calling to us, it’s because He’s waiting for us to be ready for it. This implies a different kind of calling – the calling to be holy and set apart for God’s purposes. Our flame—however small it may be—must burn surely and unwaveringly for God.
The relationship in a holy calling.
In order for a calling—a ministry or work for God—to be holy, it must come from God Himself. It’s not something we can shape and then expect God to bless and prosper us. A holy calling requires a vessel emptied of self and available for service. Many of us put the proverbial cart before the horse. The issue is often enthusiasm rather than negligence or disobedience. We think zeal will compensate for holiness. But true zeal—the pure, holy flame—emerges from holiness. That’s why so many ministries crumble and collapse. It’s often not the resistance or attacks of the devil but the lack of real foundation. God will never save us and send us without first setting us apart. That separation is the real holy calling. The other holy calling—works or ministry—simply grows out that.
The focus is on holy and set apart. God won’t dilute His precious gifts with vessels that have a spiritual and a worldly purpose. He uses vessels that He has made pure and holy and the n set apart. Two vessels may sit side by side on a shelf. They may even look identical, but each has a particular purpose. We’ll never put expensive wine in a decanter used to store vinegar. The pure vessel is reserved for the pure wine. Our second holy calling is the outworking of the first. If we’ve skipped that vital step, we can be sure that we won’t see the vibrant increase, power, and blessing that we look for. We miss a critical truth here—our calling is for Him, not for us. If the vessel hasn’t been emptied and purified, it’s tainted. There is no short-cut in the things of God.
Our real holy calling is God.
It’s so easy—and very human—to get carried away by the ‘feel-good’ aspects of working for the Lord. There’s no doubt that we may see ‘results.’ If God could use a donkey, He can certainly use half-consecrated vessels if and when He chooses to do so. But it will always be in a way that manifests His glory, not ours. He won’t ever share His glory or attach authority to anything that is not part of His purposes. The real issue here is that our holy calling always has to do with the glory of God. We are called to Him, first and foremost. Anything that interferes with this will not last. If our work for the Lord separates us from the Lord, it will diminish. It could be time, energy, or other distractions. We’re called, first and foremost, to a holy intimacy with God.
It is through this intimacy that learn to know God and His will. We learn to praise and glorify Him in the ordinary things of everyday life. Thanksgiving is birthed naturally from this kind of deep and personal relationship. We begin to willingly empty our vessel of things He points out to us. The very essence of our holy calling is ‘not my will but Yours.’ If we haven’t properly learned to worship God in intimacy, we can never glorify Him in public. Real worship is humility and contrition. It’s honesty and surrender to the mercy and grace of God. When we allow God to consecrate us in our holy calling—which is to His purposes, not ours—we will find there is no room for self. If we long for a calling to satisfy ourselves, we will never find it.
Our holy calling is us in Christ.
When I catch myself saying, ‘I’m where God wants me to be,’ I automatically stop and evaluate. Our calling will have a time and place—a context—in which we find ourselves in the purpose of God. But a holy calling must always be in Christ, no matter where we are. This may sound confusing, but it’s very simple. We can be in the right place and time, but if we are not in Christ, it’s irrelevant. Our holy calling is only and always in Christ. This is God’s grace at work. The real truth is that, on our own, we would never remain consecrated or set apart. Sin and self always intrude, and we remain set apart through confession, repentance, and surrender. In Christ, however, we have His righteousness. We are cleansed and covered by His blood. He is our precious way to remain holy and set apart.
Jesus is the only one who was ever able to live the will of the Father in totality. Even for Him, it carried a cost. We need only remember the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s a fact that none of us have ever sweated blood in surrender to God’s will. This tells us two things. First, Jesus has already done it. We surrender to God’s will by surrender to Christ and His Lordship. He has already gone before and we need only walk in His footsteps. He is our teacher, our guide, our enabler, and our example. Second, He is our righteousness. It is His blood that washes us clean and purifies us. We have no righteousness in us. All our works are as filthy rags. Without Jesus and His robe of righteousness, we can never be holy and set apart for God.
Christ in us manifests our holy calling.
Once we have learned to live in the truth of ‘in Christ,’ we can live in the truth of Christ in us. Jesus is the manifestation in us of our holy calling which is to live to the glory of God. Consecrated and set apart is essentially the same as living to reflect Christ who is our calling. When we willingly empty the vessel and allow Christ in us, we begin to live our holy calling. Jesus Himself said that He did nothing of Himself. He came only to do the will of the Father. That is our holy calling. Like Jesus, God will then lead us to accomplish the works He requires. Even then, it’s Christ in us, not self.
Christ in us is the divine empowerment to live a surrendered and selfless life for the glory and purpose of God. Whatever outward ‘calling’ it may follow, our true holy calling is to live Christ in us.
Father, forgive us if we’ve looked ahead in our enthusiasm to things we’re not ready for. Forgive us for our impatience, and for beginning this according to our desires. Draw us into our real holy calling of us in Christ and Christ in us. Purify and cleanse these weak human vessels and set us apart for Your purpose and glory, whatever that may bring. We yield ourselves today. Lord, let Your perfect will be done in us.