Posted by: lepages | February 12, 2012

The Call of God

Notes from my preach this morning at Rutland Road Church

Prophetic Vision – The Call of God
Ezekiel 2:1-3:15

Last week, we read of the prophet Ezekiel encountering God in an, at times, somewhat bizarre vision of an open heaven. He saw the ‘appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD’ seated on a majestic throne of sapphire, and when he saw this vision of God, he fell face down and he heard the voice of one speaking to him.

We’re going to pick up the account of what happened as this voice spoke to him, as he hears the call of God on his life.

READ Ezekiel 2:1-3:15

I always remember a former elder having the word ‘KISS’ written in big letters inside his Bible – wondering why he had it written there, I dared to ask him… to which he replied:-
Keep It Simple Stupid
And he explained how it was a reminder to himself whenever he preached or taught in any way to seek to keep things simple so that folk don’t get lost as a result of complicated arguments and the like.

Well, after the complexities of last week I thought Keep It Simple Stupid seemed like a good idea for this week!!

So we’re going to think about this passage via 3 simple headings, all beginning with the same letter, ‘C’
We’re going to think about:-

Call
Commission
&
Consequence

So, Call
2:1-3a “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. He said, “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites….”

There’s a number of different ‘calls’ that occur in Scripture and in general experience.
The first ‘call’ is a call to faith.
In and of ourselves we would never repent of our sin and put our faith and trust in Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross as our source of salvation.
The Bible tells us that outside of Christ we are ‘dead in our transgressions and sins’ (Ephesians 2:1)
Dead people can’t make themselves alive!
It’s the Holy Spirit who makes us alive to the truth of what Jesus has done for us and to our need of a Saviour to rescue us and give to us a new life in Christ.

So, it’s interesting that here in the call of Ezekiel, it’s the Holy Spirit who comes into Ezekiel and raises him to receive God’s call on his life.

God’s call on our lives comes at two levels.

There’s his general call, which applies to all who follow him.
So, for example in the Old Testament (and continued in the New!) there is the call to Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength, (Deuteronomy 6:5)
and the secondary call to love your neighbour as yourself (Leviticus 19:18)

This is the call of God to all his people.

Similarly in the New Testament there is the call of God to all his people to ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, to baptise them and to teach them everything they have in turn been taught’ Matthew 28:19,20

But as well as these general calls, which apply to us all, sometimes God brings a specific call to individuals.

When God brings a specific call you know what it is.
Ezekiel wasn’t left in any doubt about what he had to do.
Years ago, Julie and I were called to leave our employment here in Bedford and go to Bible college in Scotland. We didn’t know what lay beyond that, but we knew that was what God was calling us to at that time.
I remember R and A sharing about when they first started to go out together, A saying to R that if they were to have any future, he had to be prepared to go to Russia, because that is what God had called her to do – and there they are now, and we have the privilege of supporting them as they seek to fulfil the calling on their lives.

Maybe God has a call on your life.
God’s specific call isn’t always to go in a ‘full-time mission’ capacity.
Sometimes he will call us to a sphere of work.
I remember how I shared of how as a child God called him to be a doctor.
Sometimes his call will be to work for righteousness and justice, maybe in the realms of politics, maybe through community activity, maybe through giving children a hope and a future.

Two questions:-
1. Are you fulfilling God’s general call on your life?
2. Have you a specific call on your life?

I had a sense as I was preparing that maybe for someone here, you do have a sense of call on your life, but you’re not yet really fulfilling it. Please share it with others so we can stand with you and support you in it. His call may not seem a major thing, it may. His call may be to something for life, or maybe just to one particular action.

With God’s call comes our second word for this morning, his Commission

When God calls us to something he commissions us for it.

He doesn’t say to Ezekiel, ‘I’d like you to go and speak to the Israelites’, no, he says ‘I am sending you to the Israelites’.

When God calls, he then commissions, and when you are commissioned its not an option, its a command. But with the commission comes an authority – you are sent with his authority to fulfil his purposes.

I guess the place where the thought of someone being commissioned for something is most thought of today is with the military forces, commissioned to fulfil a mission. What lies ahead for them is not easy. It will involve risk to life and limb, as it has for many British forces as they have been commissioned to go and serve in for example Iraq or Afghanistan

God’s commission is not always easy either.
It was a tough call for Ezekiel.

Right at the outset of Ezekiel’s call and commissioning God lays out that the path ahead is not easy. He tells Ezekiel that the people he is being sent to are a rebellious people who have been in revolt against God for years. They’re not a people who will be easily swayed – they are obstinate and stubborn, they may fail to listen. It may feel to Ezekiel at times as though he is caught in a field of briers and thorns – I don’t know whether that’s ever happened to you – but it’s horrible, the thorns catch on your clothing, scratch into your skin, you turn to try and pull yourself free and you find more catching on you.
The Lord is honest, he paints a black picture – what I am calling you for, what I am commissioning you to do is going to be tough – you’ll have to watch your every step because it’ll feel like you’re living in a bunch of scorpions.

Jesus was quite clear that as we seek to fulfil his call on our lives, to go and make disciples of all nations, we should expect to face persecution. Physical persecution is something which many in our world will face for their faith in Jesus Christ. Social persecution is a real issue for many. I know at least 3 people who were thrown out of their homes as teenagers because of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But faith in Jesus Christ can also bring spiritual persecution too. The devil does not like it when we step out in obedience to Christ, and he will find any means he can to have a go – the good thing is we are not alone in our calling. We go in the name and with the authority of Jesus and the devil cannot stand against that.

When God calls and commissions he reassures.
For Ezekiel, as he lay before him the tough times that may well lie ahead, he reassures him again and again with the words ‘Do not be afraid’ – ‘do not be afraid of them, or their words, do not be afraid whatever you find surrounding you, don’t be afraid of what they say’.The Lord even goes a step further, he understands what we are like as human beings, how easily our fears can grow in our hearts and minds and can end up limiting and controlling us, so he says ‘do not be terrified by them’.

For Jesus too, as he commissioned his disciples – and that includes you and me if you’re a Christian – he too reassured his people – not only talking about how they (you!) are commissioned with his authority to take the good news to all people, but reassuring them that he would be with us always, right to the end of the age, and then going on to promise the power of the Holy Spirit.

Along with God’s commission to Ezekiel to go and speak to the Israelites though was more detailed commands about what he was to say.

Reminded me a bit of old spy movies and dramas where the person was expected to absorb all the information in the commission before destroying the instruction, or before as in the case of the Mission Impossible movies, it self-destructed.

But there was one big difference to that with Ezekiel.
He wasn’t to destroy the instructions, he was to ingest them, to eat them, to let them become a part of him! And that is, so often what we need to do, but what we fail to do.

Jesus, when he was talking about persecution that his disciples might face told them not to fear being brought before courts and judges, not knowing what to say because the Holy Spirit would give them the words to say. He also told them that the Holy Spirit would also remind them of what he had said to them.

To be reminded of something you need to know it in the first place.

When students come to take exams they can only put down on paper the things that they have learned.

Yesterday, talking with a fellow steward at the rugby, who is an engineer, he spoke of a new young chap working with them whom he described as a genius and quite capable of working far more effectively than him….. except that he hasn’t got the thirty years of knowledge and experience to know how to respond to a given situation.

Jesus said that we are to go and make disciples and to teach them everything he has taught us – to do that we need to know what he has taught us!! We need to ingest his teaching, we need to ingest the Word of God, the Bible. One of the saddest recent statistics is that only around 27% of evangelical Christians read the Bible outside of a church setting.

It’s interesting that when Jesus was tempted by the devil to turn stones to bread after fasting for 40 days, his answer to the devil was to say ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

If we want to really live, and be able to fulfil the calling of God on our lives, whether his general call or his specific call we need to ingest his Word.

If you are not in the habit of regularly reading God’s Word for yourself, can I encourage you to start doing so today or tomorrow (not the next day, because you’ll probably not get round to it)
If you need some help in doing so, then please speak to me, or to someone else.

What we read in the Bible isn’t always easy.
What Ezekiel read on the scroll he was given wasn’t easy.
In v10 of ch2 we read that the scroll had words of lament and mourning and woe.
He wasn’t encouraged to nibble at it. He was told in ch3v3 to fill his stomach with it.

I think similarly for us, we shouldn’t just nibble at God’s Word – perhaps just read a verse on a calendar, or a verse at the top of a page – and then spend more time reading others comments about the verse than actually reading scripture for ourselves. Let’s fill our stomachs with God’s Word. Lets ingest it so that it becomes a part of our beings!

When Ezekiel ate the scroll, inspite of the difficult things it said he said (3:3):-
‘So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.’

That’s my experience too! God’s Word is not always easy, but it does bring pleasure and delight, refreshing soul and spirit.

So we come to our third ‘C’, Consequence

God’s calling and commissioning of us has consequences.
Just as the Holy Spirit is central to our calling, so as we step out into our commissioning he is central also.

READ Ezekiel 3:10-12a
The Holy Spirit will lift us up, he will strengthen us, he will lead us – sometimes leading us to the right place at the right time without us necessarily being aware in advance – and he will give us power to fulfil what we are called to.

Knowing the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is a powerful and wonderful blessing.
He makes us more aware and more sensitive to God’s working.
So Ezekiel heard the rumbling of the living creatures wings, and the sound of the wheels in the vision, and the result was an outburst of praise:-
‘May the glory of the Lord be praised in his dwelling place!’

As we step out in obedience to God’s call, we become more sensitive to all his workings, we see more of the wonder of his creation, we see how he is working in situations when it might otherwise just pass us by.

It increases our intimacy with God.

But for all that, it doesn’t mean that everything is rosy.

God’s call can be tough, because sometimes it makes us aware of how awful things are and how they need to be changed.

Imagine how Wilberforce and others felt as they fought to abolish the slave trade, suddenly becoming aware of the awfulness of how some human beings treated other human beings, of the awful struggle of battling against prejudice and self-interest to bring about a change in the law.

For Ezekiel his call was tough as well.
Ingesting God’s Word stirred him to the core of his being.

READ Ezekiel 3:14,15

Sometimes we are called to face things, we are called to act, and even though the Holy Spirit goes with us, we can still feel overwhelmed.

R & A in the Caucasus mountains long for some real friends in their immediate setting.

You may feel overwhelmed in your situation at this time as you seek to live out the call of God on your life.

Remember this, the Lord is with you always.
We are a family together.
Lets stand together with one another.
Lets support one another.
Lets pray with and for one another.

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