That is how Rom.8:28 opens – “We know all …!” One of my favourite movies is Air Force One (edited version), with Harrison Ford. If you enjoy good movie dramas which show the hero having a bad time – being downtrodden – slandered – beaten up – discarded – but you still enjoy it, because you know he is the hero and the star, and in the end, the good guys always win. In the old fairytale manner, live happy ever after.
This was true for Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Ruth, and Jonah, – every believer from Adam to the most recent convert in our church. That is God’s promise. All things will work together for good, for those who love God and are the called according to God’s purpose. And that is the focal point at issue. I am sure everyone would like this to be true for themselves. You would like to be regarded as the good guys. So it is important to ask this. Do we love God … called?
We hear a lot about loving God, but we don’t hear a lot about being “called”. Yet the word “called” & “calling” is one of the most repeated words in the NT, when used in reference to Believers. The Bible uses this word “called”, as the reason behind why anyone believes, and loves God. We are called to be holy. Called to liberty. Called out of darkness. Called to be saints. “We love Him, because He first loved us.” His love, is the cause of our love. We believe, because He called us to believe. As it says in Acts when they preached in Asia – “as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.” And in Eph.2:19, we “believe according to the working of His mighty power.”
These things are not stated in the Bible to cause theological debates – they are stated to help us to humbly acknowledge that everything we have and are, is a result of God’s grace and calling – as Paul says, “I am what I am, by the grace of God.” ‘Do all things really work for our good?’, the answer is ‘Yes’ if we are called by God.
Is the call of God like an invitation? Is the call of God like when you call your dog? Or if we call our child in for dinner.” No. God’s call is not like this. When we call our pet or child, there is no guarantee they will come. The call of God is what we call in theological terms, an effective call. It guarantees, that those who are called, will come. It is like the call of Jesus to the corpse of Lazarus. Lazarus had been dead in the tomb four days. Jesus called, “Lazarus, come forth”(Jn. 11:43). And we read that, “he who had died came forth”.
The call of God has the power to produce what it commands. It is an ‘effectual call’, and Paul goes to extraordinary lengths to stress this in vs.28-30. Read v:30 with me again please.
There is such a thing as an ‘outward call’. This is what I do every time I preach the gospel. I know, every time I urge you to abandon your preconceived notions, and your sceptical suspicions – and listen to what the Word of God says, many of you can, and do, resist. You put up your shutters. You pigeon hole what I say. That is a very common response to the outward call of God. But there is an ‘inward call’ that comes directly from God. You can resist the outward call of the preacher, but you cannot resist the inward call of God.
It might come to you when you are reading. Or thinking while you are driving your car. Something that was said from this pulpit, or in Bible study or fellowship – might suddenly leap out at you.
LMPITW. When I give the outward call, I invite you to come to Christ – be reconciled to God. Believe in the LJC. The outward call is an invitation. Many people respond to it, but that doesn’t always mean very much. Like the parable of the sower, they flourish for a little while, then whither up.
However, the inward call of God is not an invitation. Jesus did not invite Lazarus to come forth. He commanded it. When God calls you, it is the first experience a person has, of a purpose God had fixed before time began. That is why it says, “according to His purpose” – “those He predestined, these He also called.” The decision of God was made before time began, but the experience of it occurs when we are called. It cannot not be resisted. When you are suddenly born again, you cannot help it. You cannot pretend it did not happen. C.S. Lewis said, “I was dragged screaming and kicking into the Kingdom of God.” He had been an atheist and a skeptic, but when he suddenly saw the light, he could not resist it.
That is why one thing leads to another. So we read in v30 “those He called, He justified.” That means, as a result of their call, they believed, and through their faith, they were justified – nothing could prevent that – which is why it also says, “those He justified, He also glorified.” Nothing can prevent that. That is our assurance. A Christian has been effectually called by God.
Jesus said, ‘No man can come unto me, unless the Father draw him’. He did not say, ‘No man will come unto me,’ but, ‘No man can come.’ There is a powerful difference between the two. Jesus was referring to a person’s ability. Unless he is drawn, he is unable to come. (John 6:44). Unless we have experienced the drawing of the Father, we are not, and cannot be, real Christians. It is God who makes a person a Christian. – “We are His workmanship – He who has begun..”
The call of God, begins in the will of God. It does not begin in our will. Certainly, we become willing, but it is not our will that brings this about. God does not call us because we are better than others. The plain fact is we do not know why He calls us, and not the next person. The answer to that lies with God. We cannot give it. God wills it to be so.
This was the way it was under the ministry of God’s own Son. Jesus said, “I thank you Father, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” Christ went about doing good, performing miracles, and declaring the truth of God. Some believed in Him and many did not. Why that was so, we cannot say. Jesus said the cause lies in the good pleasure of God’s sovereign will. He hides it from some, and reveals it to others. It is not for us to dispute that.
You may say, I just cannot see how this can be reasonable. I cannot see how all this ties in with man’s responsibility. How can God hold man accountable? To that, I only reply, that if you think everything has to fit in with your ability to reason, it shows that you think far more of your reason than of what the Word of God says.
If the call of God is sovereign, we must respect that, and submit to it, and not try to create a false pressure upon others to be Christians. I have known a number of people to whom this has happened. They are brought up in a Christian home and attend church for years, and the expectation of everyone is they should be a Christian. And they go along with it. And in the end they become too proud to say otherwise. But deep down they have this nagging fear – they have no real faith at all. They have never been called by God. We should never press people towards this kind of faith.
This was particularly so with my own children. It is not easy being a Pastor’s kid. There are all kinds of expectations on them. They want to please their Mum & Dad. All the church watches their behaviour. All we could do was pray for them, and have daily devotions after our evening meal, and let God’s Word apply it’s own pressure. We had terrible fears for our two sons, particularly after I fell foul of my church which I had Pastored for 14 years. They saw me deprived of a regular income – no secular work experience – when unemployment figures were sky high – & suffering the worst depression imaginable. They were full of anger & resentment & bitterness towards the church. You might wonder, how could they go on as Christians after that? Well that is the power & miracle of this effectual call of God. It is so powerful, nothing that can resist it. God preserved them & me. So we can trust His call, we don’t need to manufacture it.
There was a certain tax collector named Levi. He was a Jew working for the Romans. It was unpopular work, but it made him a lot of money. One day a Man who was passing by looked at him and said,’Come, leave it all and follow me,’ and immediately he obeyed the call. Why did that happen! What did Levi feel that made him act in this way!
Again, think of two contented fishermen, James and John, who were mending their nets in their boat. The same Man passed by, and he said to them what seemed so ridiculous: ‘Leave everything; leave your livelihood, and come and follow me. I do not make any promises. I will not give you houses or riches; but come and follow me.’ Immediately they left their father and their boats and followed Him. Why did they do that?
Let me give you another such case. A certain man had dedicated his life to one thing, namely, the extinction of Christianity. One day, as he was pursuing his object and journeying to Damascus, a bright light confronted him, & he heard a voice from heaven speaking to him, and immediately he answered, ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do! Lord, I will do anything you say. Why did he become obedient so suddenly! How was his mind changed all at once?
It is all traced back to this call of God. It persuades a person’s reason. It moves the will. It affects the heart. It renews the whole man. Such a person does not begin to ask questions about things he cannot understand. He is not concerned as to whether he was chosen before time began. He is not concerned about how much of his free will is involved in his decision to follow Christ. These questions are never asked, because the call of God brings new life. It creates in him a new need he never had before. He feels his sins with an awful ferocity. The call of God brings light, and the soul is drawn by faith and love to Christ for salvation.
We often speak of a personal relationship with Christ, and it is right to emphasise that. Even in this age where Christians are dwindling in number, there are many labouring to maintain a Christian profession, who know nothing of this personal call of God. The Bible speaks of men & women who walked with God, and this is what the call of God produces. It doesn’t matter if we are prosperous or being led away as sheep for the slaughter – we walk with God.
It doesn’t matter if we are in good health or dying – we walk with God. I had the privilege of visiting Marj in the week and I asked her, how she is – outwardly, not always the best, but in her soul – “God is so good to me”. Nola says she prays all the time. So much so, that sometimes she calls Nola “Father”. The call of God is personal.
I must close with a final appeal. Are you one of the good guys? Are you called of God? If you are, then everything is going to work out wonderfully. “All things” means all things, and in our next talk, we will examine how that is true.
But I must ask this. Are you called? God calls us through His word. “Faith comes by hearing …” “How shall they hear if no one goes to preach..!” There is no greater privilege to those who are lost in sin, than to hear…! Now if you do not experience this effectual call of God, when you hear the Word of God preached, the fault is all yours. The responsibility is all your own. Jesus said to the Jews, ‘You will not come to me (you do not want to come to me) that you might have life.’ It is nothing but your own will & rebellion that keeps you away from Christ. You have a free will, and this is how you use it. Perhaps, even now, God would be pleased to send you an alarm. Perhaps, even now, as it says in Ps.110 – God will make you willing in the day of His power.”