12Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12, NIV)
In Disneyland’s early years, one attraction was the Monsanto House of the Future. It featured a “home” that claimed to represent the future. Though the world has not really adopted the unusual design of the Home of the Future for residences, it did include a microwave oven, years before it was so available.
The Home of the Future was removed in 1967, but because of Disney’s fascination with future living, it was replaced with the Carousel of Progress, a rotating theatre program featuring animatronic people in various eras of life, including, of course, the future. The Carousel of Progress, with its catchy tune, “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow,” spent six years at Disneyland before being moved to the Magic Kingdom in Florida, in 1975, though with a new theme song.
It is said that Walt Disney loved the Carousel of Progress, perhaps his favorite Disneyland attraction. The song “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” was known to be Walt’s theme song. He had a particular fascination with the future and sought, in his unique way, to bring it into the present. Disney, in his preoccupation with the future, reminds me of the Apostle Paul. Paul did not build models of futuristic homes. But he did speak often of the future in his letters, urging his readers to live in the present with a future orientation.
In 1 Tim. 6:12, for example, Paul writes, “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” Notice the middle section of that verse: “take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called.” The phrase “eternal life” (zōē aiōnios) literally means “the life of the age to come.” Eternal life is what will come when God restores all things and rules completely over heaven and earth.
Notice that we are called to eternal life. This is similar to what we see in 1 Thessalonians 2:12, where God “calls you into His kingdom and glory.” God invites us into the life of His future, when He will wipe away every tear where there will be “endless peace” and God will rule “with justice and with righteousness” (Isaiah 9:7). Put differently, God calls us to eternal life.
Yet, this eternal life is not something we will only experience in the future. We are to “take hold of the eternal life” to which we have been called. This is something we do now. We hold on tight to the promise of a new way of living. As we do, we begin, even now, to experience dimensions of this life. Whenever, for example, we receive God’s forgiveness or forgive someone who has wronged us, we are participating now in something that will be fully realized in the future. Or, when we seek to make our workplaces more just, we are opening up a way for God’s future to impact the present. These are two of countless ways in which we can take hold right now of the eternal life, the life of the future, to which God has called us.
Gracious God, help me to take a hold of Your eternal life today.
14He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 2 14, NIV)
In the last few weeks, we have seen that the Apostle Paul uses the language of calling to describe what happens when we first put our faith in Jesus Christ. Thus, Christians can be described as “those who are the called” (1 Corinthians 1:24). We are followers of Jesus because God called us to believe the good news of salvation by grace. But, we might wonder, how does this calling to faith really happen? By what means does God call us into a relationship with God through Christ?
We get an answer to this question in the verse above. There, Paul explains to the Thessalonian Christians that God “called you through our proclamation of the good news” (NRSV). More literally (as the NIV reads), the original language reads, God “called you through our gospel [euangelion].” Paul uses the expression “our gospel” as a shorthand way of referring to his preaching of the gospel. When the Thessalonians heard Paul tell the story of what God had done in Jesus Christ, they were hearing more than merely a human voice. They were also hearing the voice of God calling them to himself.
Many Christians can relate to this account of calling from their own experience. For example, I have spoken before of how I first came to faith in Jesus Christ. When I was fifteen years old, I heard Rev. Felix Liu preach in my home church in Sao Paulo, Brazil and I went forward to “accept Jesus into my heart.” I heard the call of God through the preaching of Rev. Felix Liu.
But sometimes people hear God’s call from something other than actual preaching. A woman in a church in Irvine heard and responded to God’s call as the pastor was saying the words of institution at a communion service. I know many people who heard God’s call through the testimony of a friend or family member. Others first heard God’s calling as they watched some version of the Jesus Film. I read about a man who actually heard God’s call when he discovered a religious tract on a picnic table. As he read it, he heard and responded to God’s call and gave his life to Christ. This man, by the way, is a very bright and most thoughtful person, with a Ph.D. in philosophy from Yale. His story reminds us of the creativity and freedom of God in calling us to Himself.
The fact that God calls people through human words, whether preached, shared, or written, encourages us to be channels of the good news to others. This doesn’t mean, of course, that we need to start preaching to stadiums full of people. And neither does it mean that we should become the sort of rude people who put off others by pressuring them to come to faith. When we realize that what draws people to say “Yes” to Christ is God’s calling, then we are set free to talk about faith without worrying that the results depend on us.
Gracious God, thank You for calling me to Yourself. Use me to help folks know about Your grace. May I do this in a way that fits who You have called me to be, in ways that are genuine, humble, and respectful.
11For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His Kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2 11-12, NIV)
In our reflection on God’s calling, the Apostle Paul sometimes uses the language of calling to refer to the action of God that brought us into salvation through Jesus Christ (for example, 1 Corinthians 1:9; 7:18). In this case, God’s calling is in the past and takes a past tense verb.
But in 1 Thessalonians 2:12, Paul uses the language of calling differently. He refers to God as the One “who calls you into His Kingdom and glory.” More literally, the Greek original could be translated, “who is calling you into His Kingdom and glory” (using the Greek present tense participle). In this case, God’s calling is both present and ongoing, rather than the once-for-all calling that happened when we said “Yes” to God’s grace in Christ.
So, there is a present-tense aspect of God’s calling, something that continues after our past-tense calling to faith in Christ. God is calling us right now into His kingdom and glory. But this present-day calling also has a future dimension to it. In the letters of Paul, God’s Kingdom belongs to the future. It is primarily something we will one day “inherit” (1 Cor. 15:15). God’s glory has a similar characteristic. For example, in Romans 5:2 Paul speaks of “our hope of sharing the glory of God.” Or in Romans 8:18 he mentions “the glory about to be revealed to us.” Therefore, God is calling us right now into His future Kingdom and glory.
What difference should this make in our lives? Paul’s answer comes in an earlier part of 1 Thessalonians 2:12. He writes that we are to “live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His Kingdom and glory.” If that sounds familiar, it’s because the language here is similar to what we have seen in Ephesians 4:1, where it says that we are to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” In Ephesians, we are to walk worthy of our calling. In 1 Thessalonians we’re to walk worthy of the God who calls us.
I find it interesting that Paul does not say we’re to walk worthy of the God who calls us to live rightly. He could have written this. But, instead, he focuses on God’s calling that’s oriented to the future. One day we will fully inherit the kingdom of God. God will reign over every part of our lives and, indeed, every part of this world. In that day, we will see God’s glory as never before and, amazingly, share in that glory. As we think about what lies ahead for us, as we attend to God’s present-day calling to his future kingdom and glory, we are inspired and guided to walk in a way that honors God right now. The vision of the future we will have through God’s grace in Christ stirs within us a deep desire to live our lives in this moment for God’s glory.
Help me, Lord, to live in light of Your calling. May I live under Your sovereign authority, in anticipation of the day when I will inherit Your Kingdom.
Many of you are already aware that California is expected to fully reopen As we celebrate the 4th of July, we are reminded that by the grace of God America declared its independence from the monarch rule of Great Britain in 1776. The preamble of the Declaration clearly states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The colonists desired to be freed from the tyrannical rule of the king and wished to exercise their inalienable rights. They no longer could stand the oppressions suffered, and petitions for redress were answered with repeated injury. Therefore, they absolved themselves from all allegiance to the British Crown and dissolved all political connections between them.
Although America was successful in her declaration of independence, the internal issue of slavery remained bothersome. The slaves were not granted their freedom until President Abraham Lincoln, who believed that slavery is morally wrong, issued an executive order in 1863, proclaiming the emancipation of slaves. Despite its limited impact, Lincoln’s proclamation marked a crucial turning point in the evolution of people’s views of slavery as well as paving the way for its eventual abolition by the 13th amendment.
We have a bigger problem in that we are enslaved to sin. As Paul says, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it… What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:18-20, 24-25)
How did Jesus deliver us from the slavery of sin? In John 8:36 Jesus makes a wonderful statement of victory. He says, “So if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed.” Have you ever taken the time to consider what you are freed from? In Greek, the word free connotes the meaning of being liberated or released from liability. We were once captives and held under the bondage of sin. We were controlled by the impulses of sin and bound to the instincts of sin. We had no power to overcome as sin was our master and ruler. However, we were freed by the grace and mercy of Jesus, when he took the penalty of sin for us and replaced our death sentence with eternal life.
At the cross, there was a transactional exchange. Jesus freed us from the bondage, penalty, and guilt of sin, and exchanged it with the freedom to live and serve. When we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, he increases our capacity to love, enjoy life, and experience peace and joy. More than anything else, we can now have a healthy relationship with our heavenly Father. “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)
Our freedom in Christ calls us to serve Him and His people. He has work for us to do. He has a plan for our life. We serve not out of guilt or trying to prove ourselves, win the applause of men, or the approval of God. We are saved and freed by grace. Our approval doesn’t come because of what we do, but because of what Christ has already done. When we understand this, we are free to accomplish the purpose God has for our life with no selfish agenda, no ulterior motive but out of a heart motivated by love for Him. Freedom is defined as the power or right to act, speak, or think without restraint. We are reassured that “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Gal. 5:1) Enjoy your freedom in Christ, and be a good instrument of His grace and love. Share it with someone today!