A Shepherd's Heart

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            I received the following devotional of the above title today (November 14, 2014). As our church has just finished a study which emphasized the importance of heeding the exhortation of its text, it caught my attention in a special way.

“Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” (2 Peter 1:10)


 Although the calling of God is solely by His grace apart from works (2 Timothy 1:9), and although “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Romans 11:29), it is quite possible for a person to believe mistakenly that he has been called, and so Peter urges each professing Christian to make sure of his calling.


 In the first place, one who is truly called will love God (Romans 8:28), and such love should not be superficial but with the whole heart and soul and mind (Matthew 22:37). One who is called should “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love” (Ephesians 4:1-2). If our lives fail such tests, we should at least “examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves” (2 Corinthians 13:5).


God’s call is not only unto salvation, of course, but to a particular service for His glory. Some like Paul were “called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1). Many in Paul’s day were actually called to be slaves: “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayst be made free, use it rather. For he that is called to the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant. . . . Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God” (1 Corinthians 7:20-22, 24).


Even the apostle Paul, however, could still say (and so should we), “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). We need, first of all, to make our “calling and election sure.” HMM 

- Institute for Creation Research, 1806 Royal Lane, Dallas, Texas 75229 - 

            I was then reminded of the following: 

Jehovah is the living God, and the divine life is seen in each of the adorable persons of the Godhead. Our Lord Jesus Christ is not to us a dead Christ: we love and bless him because he once died upon the cross, but we adore him because he ever liveth to make intercession for us. We are bold to preach the gospel because of his living power, and we are earnest to observe his commands because we own his living government in the midst of the church. The living God proves his life among us by the Holy Spirit, by the conversion of sinners, by comforting and instructing saints, and by edifying the faithful into a building fitly framed together. Since, then, the church belongs to the living God, what is a dead church? Is that the church of the living God? How can it be? Only as you and I possess the Spirit of God quickening us to a life of godliness may we dare to think ourselves a part of the church of the living God.


- From a sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon entitled "What The Church Should Be," delivered September 29, 1878 -

             As the ICR devotional implies, heeding Paul's exhortation to the saints at Corinth is as needful today as ever, if not more so: 

Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates [i.e., unless the fruit of your life is ungodly, "unapproved" by God]? (2Corinthians 13:5)  


            Peter, Paul and Spurgeon all had in mind the same evidence of true salvation: personal holiness. 

Hebrews 12:13-14   And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.  14 Follow peace with all [men], and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:


1Peter 1:13-16   Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;  14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:  15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of [behavior];  16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.


            Peter described personal holiness in very practical terms. Specifically, he wrote of certain innate characteristics of the "divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4) which is given to every born again child of God. These will be carefully nurtured in the life of the one who has truly been regenerated by the work of God's Spirit (2 Peter 1:5-7): virtue (consistent with the "new nature" given at new birth), knowledge (of God and His ways), temperance (self-control, i.e., victory over the lusts of the flesh), patience (holy contentedness), godliness (Christlikeness), brotherly kindness, and charity (selfless love for others). 

            Paul described the regenerated life more generally as being a "new creature" in which "old things pass away" and "all things become new" to the new believer (2 Corinthians 5:17). He also taught that, while the believer's willing obedience is required for him to enjoy the full blessings of his salvation in his temporal life, his transformation from rebellious sinner to eternally secure and adopted son of God is the work of God, not man. 

But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:  14 Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2Thessalonians 2:13-14)  


But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, [even] as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2Corinthians 3:18)


...Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;  That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,  That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25b-27)  


...he which hath begun a good work in you will perform [it] until the day of Jesus Christ: (Philippians 1:6b)


Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present [you] faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,  25 To the only wise God our Saviour, [be] glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. (Jude 1:24-25)  


            The apostle John provides a blessed conclusion to this short reflection by putting into proper perspective for us the sovereign grace of God and the responsibility of man as they relate to true salvation: 

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (1John 3:1-3)  


            So, as you carefully examine your own life, can you honestly say that you see a progression of increasing Christlikeness, i.e., moral and ethical purity? In times of conflict, do you choose the self-sacrificing way or the way of personal convenience and self advancement? When given a choice, do you choose that which truly glorifies God regardless of the cost to you personally? Do you truly love the body of Christ, i.e., fellow believers? Are you willing to set your interests aside in order to advance theirs? And, finally, is your life truly centered on Christ, God's Word, and your divinely given responsibility to " walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called" (Ephesians 4:1b). In short, is your professed calling and election, your salvation, sure?


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