The Upward Calling (1)
…one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3.13, 14
Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” John 21.20-22
Mind your own business!
In many ways we’re all a bit like the Apostle Peter, easily distracted from the one thing that matters most in life – knowing, loving, and following Jesus Christ.
Having just been reinstated in his love for Jesus, and given clear instructions to shepherd the Lord’s flock, Peter simply could not be content to get on with the Lord’s personal call. John reports that, as Peter and Jesus walked along the shore of the Sea of Galilee on that wondrous morning, Peter noticed John trailing along behind them. He could not resist asking Jesus for some insight into what He had in store for the beloved apostle. But Jesus answered Peter’s inquiry brusquely: “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”
This is the great challenge, the gauntlet thrown at the feet of every believer: Follow Jesus. Disciples are those who follow a master, and Jesus is the Master above all masters, Whom we must follow. Not merely confess, but follow.
Jesus is the journey and destination of God’s call on our lives. He is with us always, His Spirit dwells within us, and we are seated with Him in heavenly places (Matt. 28.20; Jn. 14.16, 17; Eph. 2.6). Jesus leads us up and above the worldly fray and ways, into the realm of Kingdom righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Matt. 6.33; Rom. 14.17, 18). Our lives have been hidden with Christ in God, and He is the great prize of our lives, as we are daily transformed into His image, and when in glory we shall see Him face to face and be like Him (Col. 3.3; 2 Cor. 3.12-18; 1 Jn. 3.1-3).
And yet we often seem more concerned about other things, lesser things, than about the great business of following Jesus for which we have been redeemed and called.
An upward prize
I suspect this is so for two reasons: First, it may be that we have never really understood how great is the privilege and how wonderful are the blessings of following Jesus. We have tasted of the Lord, and we know that taste to be good. But unless we are partaking of Him with the kind of intimacy and consistency that leads to peace and joy in every situation, we will never know His power for living that makes all things new.
And second, it’s possible that many of us are not entirely clear on what following Jesus involves. Perhaps we have not truly considered the implications of that word, follow, so that we have no real sense of the adventure to which we have been called, the challenges we must be ready to surmount, or the progress in Christ’s life we must strive to realize.
If we really saw following Jesus as Paul did, as the prize and upward calling worthy of our exclusive devotion and constant attention, we might be less likely to be distracted by the concerns and diversions of this world. Jesus is not just some gold star to be pinned on the résumé of our lives – like a diploma or certificate of recognition, a promotion or a raise, but limited to our spiritual interests and aspirations. Jesus is not merely a prize among many other prizes in our lives. He is the prize, the great attainment, the sine qua non of all of life, the prize without Whom all of life falls into a heap and turns to ashes. Whatever we’re striving for in life, whatever we hope to attain, for those who understand following Jesus as Paul did, these are but milestones or benchmarks along the longer and more arduous journey of gaining Jesus Christ in glory.
Further, following Jesus is an upward calling. It lifts our eyes, fuels our hopes, and raises our aspirations in life beyond the fleeting pleasures and trials of mere earthly existence, into the unchanging realm of saints and angels, where Christ is seated at the Father’s right hand, building His Church and advancing His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
Following Jesus means pursuing an upward trajectory in life, one that lifts us daily above the gravity and grovel of space and time, enabling us to live the then and there of the glory of God in the here and now of everyday life. Focused on Jesus, and drawing ever closer to Him, we discover direction, wisdom, joy, pleasure, hope, and power. Thus we bring the transforming reality of eternal life into the everyday activities and events of our earthly experience, making the most of all our time and opportunities, and beaming the hope of glory through all our words and deeds (Eph. 5.15-17; 1 Pet. 3.15).
A uniquely personal calling
“You follow Me!” Jesus insisted. You – Peter, former fisherman, rock of the Church, chief of the Apostles, husband, pastor, evangelist – “You follow Me!” Jesus issues that same calling to every one of His followers. Each of us, given our unique personalities, endowments, and opportunities, is called to follow Jesus. Certainly that will find each of us honing in on a common vision and attending to common areas of endeavor. But how we pursue that vision, the specific nature of the commitments we make and the efforts we undertake, will vary with each follower of the Lord.
Jesus is calling you to follow Him. To follow Him as you are, where you are, and as you are going. Jesus intends to equip and empower you for your unique and special place within that ongoing work, as He leads you along the glorious, upward path of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit into Himself – the great prize and upward calling of God.
1. What image or vision comes to your mind as you think about Jesus as the prize and upward calling of your life?
2. What are some of the primary distractions that keep you from seeing this vision more clearly, and following Jesus more consistently?
3. Watch the video about your Personal Mission Field (click here). Then download the worksheet (click here) and map out the field in which the Lord calls you to follow Him.
Next steps – Conversation: How would you explain to a new Christian what it means to “follow Jesus”? What would you point to in your life to illustrate what the life of following Jesus entails? Talk with some Christian friends about these questions.
T. M. Moore
This week’s study, The Upward Calling, is Part 1 of a 5-part series on Following Jesus. Each week’s study is available in a free PDF which you can download by clicking here. Watch the video on our Mission Partners Outreach for more information about how you can begin to follow Jesus in your Personal Mission Field (click here).
Want to learn more about your Christian worldview? Our free online course, One in Twelve, is available any time, and at no charge. Click here to learn more about this exciting introduction to Christian worldview, presented by 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.