February 10, 2009
The Call, with Dr. Os Guinness, Part 2
How serious are you in looking for a purpose to life? The search better be serious because there are so many inadequate answers offered today. I’m Charles Morris and welcome to Haven Today, telling the great story, it’s all about Jesus.
This is a program with Os Guinness, part 2 that we’re calling “The Call” finding and fulfilling the central purpose of your life. Os Guinness is a Christian scholar and he’s someone worth listening to so stay tuned as we talk about the call that all of us, believer and unbeliever alike need to learn about. Opening our time together on this Haven Today Andrew Peterson and his song, “I Believe the Good Confession”.
Song: I Believe the Good Confession
Performed by: Andrew Peterson
Welcome again to Haven Today and we have a special guest with us from Washington DC by way of England and then Ireland and then China before that, Dr. Os Guinness welcome back to this program.
OG: Thank you Charles. It’s a pleasure to be here.
CM: Well, it’s a blessing to have you with us another day. You opened quite a topic, several topics of conversation as we ended our time together yesterday so I’m glad we’re back again. You’ve written a book called “The Call” and I think it would be good for our listeners to kind of understand what do you mean by the call or calling?
OG: Well, let me define it the way I see it. When God calls us in Jesus, “Follow Me,” everything we are and everything we have and everything we do becomes a part of our response to his summons. Now if we bring in some of the definitions that the Reformers and some others used there’s a difference between the Primary Calling and the Secondary Calling as they put it. The Primary Calling is by the Lord, to the Lord for the Lord, so we’re not first and foremost ever called somewhere, to China or to New York,
OG: we’re called to someone. We’re not called to something, like medicine or law or high school teaching or whatever it is, we’re called to someone. That’s the Primary Call. What Reformers called the Secondary Calling was everything we do in response to the Primary Calling. It’s actually a misnomer, the wrong word. It’s actually an answering, not a calling. In other words, the doctors make sure the whole of their medicine is in answer to the Lord, the homemakers make sure the whole of their family life is in answer to the Lord. Everyone everywhere in everything they do because he’s such a Lord. And that’s what we’re talking about. Now there are other definitions that are needed too today. I describe it as the definition, the distinction between – this isn’t a good word – the “normal” calling and the “special” calling. Every Christian is called. And we’re only Christians because we’re called and we’re following. “Follow Me” and we are following. We’re followers of Jesus. In the New Testament they’re not called Christians they’re called followers of Jesus or followers of the Way. So every Christian is called – and Christians say, “Well, I don’t know what God’s calling is.” Everything in the New Testament is about what we should do, loving our enemies, all the things he says. Now some Christians though, have a direct, supernatural call when the Lord breaks in, and that’s not everyone. Now the trouble is, these special calls, like Paul’s vision and the man from Macedonia,
CM: The road to –
OG: And so on, they are so dramatic. Preachers tell the stories, others tell the stories and then the rest of us listen and say, “Wow! I’ve never had anything like that.
CM: I’ve never had anything like that happen to me.
OG: and so you have them sitting around waiting for “it”. As if, we’re not called unless we’ve heard a voice and seen a vision.
CM: And it means they just, if they don’t get “It” they just sit and they never do anything.
OG: Just sit and they never do anything, exactly.
CM: Well, and Paul had this in being called to faith originally on the road to Damascus but then also other callings such as where he goes, who he’s to preach the Gospel too.
OG: We’re all called, we all have the normal calling.
OG: If the Lord wants to say to any of us, “Dr. in New York, I want you in Zambia” that’s the Lord’s responsibility but we’re not to sit around and wait for “it”. And that’s one of the misnomers. So that’s what we’re talking about, everything in our life, everyone in every thing, living life as a response to his call.
CM: This is a bit of a rabbit trail Os but what about someone who’s not a Christ follower? Is there a call to them?
OG: Well, we need to understand that the biblical way. They are called but they don’t answer. In other words, Christians, followers of Jesus are those who, when they are called say “Yes Lord!” When Jesus says, “Come and see,” they come and they follow. So the Lord does call everyone and many don’t follow and we are the followers.
CM: And if you do respond and answer to the call and become a follower of Jesus, you were pointing out a moment ago then there are special callings that the Lord gives to certain people. What about the sense that there is a calling to everyone whether you’re to be a baker or a car maker or a politician of all things, or a pastor or anything?
OG: Well, when the Lord doesn’t direct us with that supernatural specificness then, as the Puritans understood say the parable of the talents, he gives 1, 5, 10, we have to say, “Lord what are the gifts you’ve given me?” Because when we use the core of our giftedness, you know modern phrases like, “This is the way I’m wired,” or “my passion”, what they’re talking about is this is the core of my giftedness and I’m employing that and as the servants in the parable multiplying, maximizing. And the key thing in the parable, you know, the master, the king, gives to them 1,5, 10 talents, disappears. There’s zero micromanagement. They have to do it on their own, they’re entrepreneurs. That’s calling. The Lord’s made us who we are. We’ve got gifts. Some of us are good with the hands, some are good managers, some are good with hospitality, some are people persons, I’m a sort of ideas and communicator. We all have different gifts and the key thing is, “Lord with the gifts you’ve given me, 1, 5 10, how am I going to maximize these for your glory?” The only person in the parable who’s condemned is the man who does nothing.
CM: Let’s move it into the Pauline letters. We here on this program recently have been talking about 2 Corinthians. My wife and I started the year out reading 2 Corinthians to each other. I really like in your book ‘The Call’ this image of living in a world without windows. And Paul says there in 2 Corinthians 15, “Fix your eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen.” Well, how does that change things to look at it that way?
OG: Well let me explain what I mean by that. It’s actually a phrase of Peter Burger’s who’s one of my mentors. He points out the traditional world, the seen world, in other words the world of the 5 senses. You can touch, taste, see, smell and so on, calculate, the seen world was not the only world. There was an unseen world and the unseen world was not unreal. It was actually more real but the odd thing about our modern world and one of the ways that we become secularized is that the seen world is the only world. And for us what’s unseen is often unreal. Now we as followers of Jesus we know that the supernatural world is more important than the natural world that we can see.
CM: and on a certain level we believe it most of the time too.
OG: Exactly, so just like Elisha’s servant we’ve got to be able to have our eyes open to see the chariots of fire around us. Or as I put it in the book, we’ve got to remember we’re not living before secular, worldly audiences around us. We have, in the Puritan notion, we’re living before one audience, the Audience of One. And we have to train ourselves always to remember that our success is not whether we make a pile of money in this life or if we’ve got a lot of popularity or approval, no. We live before one audience, the Audience of One and if he at the end of the day says, “Well done.” That’s approval.
Cm: That’s what counts, that’s right. If you’ve just joined us here on Haven Today you are listening to Dr. Os Guinness. He’s got a book out called “The Call” and we’ll tell you how to get a copy of that at the end of the program. Let’s talk about this world we’re living in, 2009, just talk to me about the danger of our ego, getting involved and living out our call. What is the answer to this?
OG: Well, you can see that calling is so special, “The Lord’s given me the gifts to do that.” Every aspect of calling has its temptation, naturally we live in a fallen world. And one of the flip sides of calling should be gratitude but often becomes conceit. “The Lord has called ME” and you can see this in nations, Manifest Destiny and so on, you can see it in individuals. I tell a story in the book of Sir Stafford Cripps who was a fine old Presbyterian in England and a member of Winston Churchill’s cabinet but he was a bit of a prig and a prude and he was very, very full of himself. Churchill couldn’t stand him and there was a famous time when he left the cabinet room, Churchill turned to the others and said, “There but for the grace of God goes God.”
CM: I’ll go with Churchill on that I think. What about money? As you think about our call as believers how does money compete with the call of Christ?
OG: Money seen one way is just a medium of exchange. But Jesus warned that was is a medium of exchange can become a personal, spiritual idol and he called it “Mammon,” a force that we bow down to as an idol. And Paul said, “the love of money is the root of all evil.” Now you can see that when we worship Jesus as Lord money must never be so he tells us not to be anxious. So when Paul says, you know, “The Lord loves an hilarious giver,” it’s as if we can thumb our nose at money. It’s only a medium of exchange. We can give it away hilariously because we’re freed from the grip of Mammon. And then we’re free in order to be stewards of it because ultimately it’s not ours, it’s his. Everything is his and we’re trustees or stewards for the time that we’re on earth. Now that’s easier to say but Christians have to do that because money has power and you can see in modern America, the idolatry of money in a consumer society. And so we need to practice our biblical truths and see that under the Lordship of Christ we are stewards, we are trustees. This is only a medium of exchange and we can give it away without any anxiety. We can trust him to give us all the needs we have because he is our Lord, not Mammon.
CM: How do you see that affecting us in these hard times, in this recession, in particular to Christians? What advice coming out of the scripture do you find that you can share with us?
OG: Warren Buffet said recently, “When the tide goes out,” he’s talking about the financial world of Wall Street, “When the tide goes out then you can see who’s swimming naked.” To put it another way, in easy times are we trusting the Lord or the fact that life is pretty plush? And there are many parts of America where people are suffering, that’s true, but for many Americans really the last generation has been incredibly plush. Do we need to trust the Lord or are we relying on the American Dream to supply our needs? Suddenly it goes and I bet people,
CM: Need has been, the definition of need has been drastically changed in the last few decades, hasn’t it?
Cm: Since World War II.
OG: And people in the last few weeks, some of whom have lost a quarter of their fortune others have had their pensions wiped out and their medical insurance wiped out and other things. And at times like that they’re really forced to trust the Lord. Now we who haven’t been wiped out like that we have to ask ourselves, “What is it we’re really trusting?” So crises sort us out in that way.
CM: How do you see the Lord working in our lives, in our hearts, in our minds when that kind of trouble comes close for those of us who have been affected by the recession?
OG: Well crises have always been opportunities as well as potential disasters and if we seize the opportunities – maybe we’re called to repentance or to a new trust in the Lord or to a reminder of some area we’ve overlooked or whatever, the present crisis for Christians in America is a wonderful opportunity. You can see when Rome fell Augustine wrote “The City of God” to say that there were 2 cities.
OG: the City of God and the city of man and many Christians were trusting in Rome. The empire had been Christianized and now as Rome spread the church spread.
Cm: Nothing left to do.
OG: Yes and Augustine says no, we’re in the City of God not the city of man. And in the same way, many Christians have trusted in America, naturally, I’m not attacking it. So much of America is shaped by the Gospel but now as it goes further from the Gospel and this crisis shows up we’ve got to see where is our trust. Is it in the Lord or in the American Dream or some part of it? It’s a sorting, sifting time and the crisis is a great opportunity.
Cm: Well there’s a question that you ask in your book “The Call”, “Are followers of Jesus sufficiently gripped by the Gospel to behave as he would wish us to behave?” What do you think that looks like?
OG: Well, read the New Testament. You know I said to you earlier -
CM: That’s your easy answer isn’t it? Yes, Jesus answer.
OG: But it’s a true answer! Sermon on the Mount and many other things, he sets out the way of life that he wants his followers to live. I’ve been a Christian nearly 50 years now and still there are parts of it that challenge you to the core of your being because they’re so tough and you know, we just ignore them. You know I said earlier, a very simple example, the Christian Right, the central challenge that Jesus talks about when we’re dealing with battles: love our enemies. How on earth do we love people who hate us?
Cm: There not even in my party! Yes,
OG: Wilberforce did. You know when William Wilberforce was fighting abolition he was the most vilified man in the world at one stage. He was twice physically mugged. I mean he was caricatured and slandered daily.
CM: I didn’t know that.
OG: But you know at one time one of his worst enemies, I mean they planned to set assailants on him in the streets and so on, one of his enemies, a vicious one, died. Wilberforce immediately saw that his widow had a pension. He was always gracious, loving to the worst of his enemies. I wish that our Christian leaders could be like that today. You read Christian direct mail or whatever, there’s so much of a demonizing of our enemies. We’re not following the way of Jesus. I mean, Jesus set it out.
CM: There is a liberation isn’t there that comes to each of us who respond to this call of Jesus?
OG: Because he knows who we are. And if you think of calling, each of us is unique so he knows our capacity and our aspirations deeper than we do, deeper than our spouses do, deeper than our best friends do, so when he calls us he has in mind who we can really be. And there’s a wonderful sermon by George McDonald who was C.S. Lewis’ great mentor. He talks about that verse in Revelation 3 when Jesus says, “To the one who overcomes I’ll give the white stone with a new name written” that he alone knows. And George McDonald says that we don’t know our real name until we get to Heaven and then we’ve become what God was calling us to become and then we’re given the name that fits our nature and there’s no secular way to do that. Talk about fulfillment and ambition and self, do-it-yourself, you can’t do it!
Cm: Leadership principles, 6 steps, 7 steps, 12 steps.
OG: But when God who knows us as we are and who we can be calls us and we follow that call as I said, we rise higher and go further than we ever imagined by ourselves.
CM: Os we have never met until being in a studio together in Southern California. Ideas matter don’t they?
CM: That is coming through just like lightening from you across the microphone but also the power of the Lord is mighty as well isn’t it? And the Lord has, has blessed you not only with being someone with ideas but Jesus is very real to you isn’t he?
OG: Oh, extraordinarily so! But not easy times. If you speak the truth today to power, including Christian power, a lot of people offer crazy things. The church is in the most appalling mess and so these aren’t easy times. We need to call for reformation and revival.
CM: What do you mean by that, the church is in an appalling mess?
OG: Put it like this, it’s said of the early church the price of the Christianization of Rome was the Romanization of the Christian church. Things like papacy were a reflection of the seasons. In the same way it’s said today that the price of the Christianization of the modern world is the modernization of the church. The church in America is more modern in many ways than it is Christian. We’ve become captive. Luther would call it a Babylonian captivity to the world we helped to create. So evangelicalism is a shallowness and a worldliness and a tawdriness and all sorts of contradictions. I mean you read polls every day. I mean just a month ago Pew polls showing that evangelicals no longer believe that Jesus is the onlyway to the Father.
OG: I saw one last week that atheist’s marriage is stronger than evangelical marriages. These things are a dishonor to the name of Christ.
OG: We’re in appalling shape. We’re like the church just before the Reformation and we need reformation. We need revival. Have you ever seen our evangelical manifesto?
OG: You can get it online at evangelicalmanifesto.com. It is a call to reformation revival of evangelicalism. We’re not as evangelical as we think.
CM: We’ll put it up on our website. Os Guinness, what a blessing! Thank you! May I come to Washington once a year just to hear you again?
OG: I’d be honored.
CM: Let me ask you to pray one more time for our listeners around the world. Would you pray for reformation right now?
OG: Lord, we confess that we who follow you and carry your name often dishonor you rather than honor you. And we pray that you will look down in mercy and forgive us and revive us in our time, that from leaders to followers across this land and other lands you will raise up people of the Good News who not only use the name but are shaped by all your teaching. Forgive us our sins and our errors and Lord have mercy and revive us we pray, in Jesus’ name, amen.
Cm: Thank you Os Guinness for closing our time together in prayer. If you missed yesterday’s program we’ve got it there on our website, Part 1 with Os Guinness called “The Call”. I highly recommend it. And if you’d like to send today’s program on to a friend we’ve made it really easy. Just go to our website, haventoday.org. Go to the “Listen” button and there you’ll see a place where you can type in a friend’s email, a little note from yourself and send it on to them. If you’d like to know more about Os Guinness’ book called “The Call: Finding and fulfilling the central purpose in your life” you can read about it at h.a.v.e.n.t.o.d.a.y, haventoday.org. You can also make a gift to the ministry and when you get a copy of the book we’ll also send you a CD with a copy of our 2 programs, today and yesterday with Os Guinness. You can call us if you’d like and get a copy of the book and a bonus CD. Our toll free telephone number in North America is 1-800-654-2836, that’s 1-800-654-2836. And if you would like to spend more time in God’s word or also in prayer and you just need a way to help you do it may I suggest the Haven Ministries publication called “Anchor”? If you’ve never seen it we’d love to send you a sample copy. You can also sight up for an entire year when you call 1-800-65-HAVEN or look for the little button on our homepage called “Anchor” there at haventoday.org.
I’m Charles Morris and thanks for being with me and Os Guinness. Would you come back again tomorrow? We’ll still be sharing the great story and it’s all about Jesus and we’ll do it together on Haven Today.