Loving God's Calling (1)

He has called us to work.

Loving God (10)

You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. 1 Thessalonians 2.10-12

“Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.” Matthew 21.31

The parable of the two sons
In the parable of the two sons (Matt. 21.28-32) Jesus taught an important lesson about the Kingdom of God. The question He addressed is implied: “Who will enter and enjoy the benefits of life in the Kingdom of God.” The answer is clear: Not those who say they will, but those who actually do.

But a second question is even more implicit: Which of these two sons loved and honored his father?

The father called his sons to work in the vineyard, to take up the tools and skills, and invest the time and effort required to allow the vines to produce fruit. Each son was called to work, and the specific work to which he was called related to bringing forth fruit on the vines.

The first son declined to go: “He answered and said, ‘I will not”. However, “afterward he regretted it and went.” He had a change of heart. He decided to do what his father requested, no doubt because he felt guilty about not showing proper love and honor to his father.

The father approached the second son with the same call to work. “And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go.” Everyone who heard this parable from Jesus knew how to answer His question. The first son, who experienced a change of heart toward his father – who decided to reciprocate his father’s love and respect his wishes – was the one who “did the will of his father” by taking up the work to which he’d been called.

Jesus applied this teaching to His audience. All those who heard the call of God through John the Baptist and Jesus, to turn from their sins and take up “the way of righteousness” would certainly “enter the Kingdom of God.” The religious leaders, who merely talked a good talk, but did not do the works characteristic of those who have embraced the Kingdom-and-glory calling of the Lord, would be left on the outside.

Put another way: If we love God as we say we do, we will embrace His calling, and all the work it requires.

Called to the Kingdom
God has called us to His Kingdom and glory. The Kingdom of God is that holy spiritual realm where Jesus rules, by His Word and Spirit, to increase righteousness, peace, and joy on earth as it is in heaven (Rom. 14.17, 18; Matt. 6.10). We enter this Kingdom by grace through faith, as the Spirit of God brings the saving work of Jesus to bear on our souls, and we repent of our sins and believe the Good News about Jesus and His Kingdom. But having entered by grace through faith, we take up the works which this Kingdom requires (Eph. 2.8-10).

Entering the Kingdom – or supposing we have entered it – is one thing; laying hold on it is quite another. In Matthew 11.12 Jesus said, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” The fourth century Church Father, Cyril of Alexandria wrote this about Jesus’ instruction: “Whoever hears and loves the sacred message takes it by force. This means that he uses all his eagerness and strength in his desire to enter within the hope.” If we love this message and our Lord Who proclaims it, we will use all our eagerness and strength to enter, enjoy, and work for the advance the of the Kingdom.

John Calvin (1509-1564) was even more pointed: “The greater part of men were no more excited than if the Prophets had never uttered a word about Christ, or if John had never appeared as his witness; and therefore Christ reminds them, that the violence, of which he had spoken, existed only in men of a particular class. The meaning therefore is, A vast assembly of men is now collected, as if men were rushing violently forward to seize the Kingdom of God; for, aroused by the voice of one man, they come together in crowds, and receive, not only with eagerness, but with vehement impetuosity, the grace which is offered to them. Although very many are asleep, and are no more affected than if John in the wilderness were acting a play which had no reference to them, yet many flock to him with ardent zeal. The tendency of our Lord’s statement is to show, that those who pass by in a contemptuous manner, and as it were with closed eyes, the power of God, which manifestly appears both in the teacher and in the hearers, are inexcusable. Let us also learn from these words, what is the true nature and operation of faith. It leads men not only to give, cold and indifferent assent when God speaks, but to cherish warm affection towards Him, and to rush forward as it were with a violent struggle.”

They love the Father’s gift of the Kingdom (Lk. 12.32) who devote themselves to obtaining it, advancing in it, increasing its presence, realizing more of its fruit, and doing whichever good works are required to see that glorious and holy realm increasing on earth as it is in heaven. These are the works that bring out the glory of God (Matt. 5.13-16).

Called to the glory of God
But not for our own glory. We’re not trying to earn anything from God by going into His Kingdom vineyard, eager and determined to bring forth the fruit of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. “Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but to Your Name give glory” (Ps. 115.1) is the cry of all who have truly entered the Kingdom and taken up its work with holy violence.

We want to see God’s Name exalted, God’s Presence more palpable among us, God’s righteousness increasing, and the fruit of God’s Spirit flowing like rivers of living water into all our relationships, roles, and responsibilities (Jn. 7.37-39).

But this doesn’t just happen. It happens when we hear our Father’s call to enter His Kingdom and live for His glory, and we go with resolution, exertion, persistence, and joy to do the works that bear Kingdom fruit. The world is the Lord’s field (Matt. 13.38), and He has sent each of us to a portion of it (Jn. 20.21) and called us to do the good works He has before ordained. If we love God, we will do more than simply give lip-service to His Kingdom and glory. We will repent of anything that has kept us from doing the works of the Kingdom, and we will go into our world every day, in everything we do, prepared by His Word and Spirit, grounded in His Law and grace, and zealous and ready to do and maintain those works that bring forth Kingdom fruit on earth as it is in heaven (Tit. 2.14; 3.1, 8, 14).

God has called you to His Kingdom and glory. He will know that you love Him, and you will prove your love for Him, as you do the works which characterize His Kingdom and bring glory and honor to His Name.

For reflection
1.  We are not saved by works; but we are not saved without them. Explain.

2.  How can we know which works will advance the Kingdom of God?

3.  How can we make sure God gets all the glory for our good works?

Next steps – Transformation: Commit your day to the Lord, and go into it prepared to do the good works that characterize His rule in your life.

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore