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Bona Fide Calls

December 15, 2006

In the year that King Uzziah died, God commissioned Isaiah the prophet. Isaiah’s commissioning service was unlike any other, before or since. Isaiah saw Adonai. He saw the Sovereign God. He saw dominion and power enthroned in the heavens. He viewed that throne, high and lifted up. He saw the majestic train of the most high God, and that train filled the temple.

Above that majestic train stood the winged serpents, the burning ones of heaven, the celestial dragons, six-winged, and crying out to one another,

Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

Symbolizing God’s presence, the thresholds shook at the sound of his voice, and a cloud like the Shekinah filled the house. Isaiah saw God in all his glory, in all his splendor. Isaiah saw a vision of the holiness of God, of the sovereignty of God, of the power of God. And unlike many of the Bible College students of our modern day, he did not begin to feel that since he had a superior knowledge of God, and had experienced God in a more real way than the average Christian, he must be called to preach. No, Isaiah saw the Lord in all his glory and holiness and power and dominion, and Isaiah cried out

Woe is me! For I am undone…

This was not simply textbook knowledge with Isaiah. His cry came, not from the thoroughness of his courses in Systematic Theology, but from the weight of guilt laid on his soul. Isaiah cried out in sorrow and wretchedness, and made full confession of his sin.

…because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

And I say, Woe unto us! For we have Ministerial students who have never known God outside of a textbook, whose knowledge of the holy was memorized for a test, who know their own worth better than they know God. A bona fide call to the ministry will come, must come after a bona fide glimpse of the King, the LORD of hosts.

When God calls a man, he first smites that man with his unworthiness, with his failings, with his sinful and ungodly ways. God shows that man His holiness, and reveals that man’s wickedness. Are you called of God? Then you have seen God. And you have seen yourself.

When Isaiah cried out because of his sin, one of the burning ones, the winged serpents flew to him, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. He laid that live coal on Isaiah’s mouth, and said,

Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

When God calls a man, he convinces that man of his wretchedness, and then God himself cleanses that man, takes his sin away, and purges him. God uses clean vessels. But not all those sparkling examples of piety that infest the modern Fundamentalist Bible College. Those guys are holier than thou art, and too holy for the work of the Lord. They are too right, too righteous. Their piety exceeds that even of the pious in Christ’s age. They have washed their own garments, made them ever so white. They are fundamental pharisees, too good to be true, and certainly too good for the ministry.

God showed himself to Isaiah in a powerful way, and Isaiah was broken by the view. God convinced Isaiah of his sin. God himself purified Isaiah. And then, God said,

Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?

God caused Isaiah to volunteer for the ministry. We should not be surprised at the number of people who misinterpret this particular call. We should not be surprised at the rates of “volunteerism” that prevail among Independent Baptists. After all, we value free will above God’s will. We say that it is all of grace, when it actually is all of man. We volunteered, we say. We are humbled to do so, in a proud sort of way.

Isaiah 6:8 is not a proof text for volunteerism. God revealed himself to Isaiah, convicted him, cleansed him, and called him. Isaiah’s response was one of submission, not usurpation. God called, Isaiah responded. God called, Isaiah surrendered. God called, Isaiah obeyed. When God calls a man, God does the calling. The man who calls himself is not called of God. He has not sent them.

When God called Isaiah, God also commissioned him.

And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.

God called Isaiah to preach, not to be successful. In fact, God called him to preach, and promised that he would not be successful. Some would hear, most would not. With some, the preaching would turn them. With most, the preaching would harden. And yet, God sent Isaiah to do a work of hardening, to make them fat, their ears heavy, their eyes blind. How long? Until God was done with those people.

Why is it that Youth Conferences and College chapel messages sound so different than Isaiah 6? Why do we preach the calling of God with such a different tone? We make it sound exciting, romantic, cool. Preaching is neither a burden, nor a flowery bed of ease.

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Categories: Mallinak, The Ministry
  1. December 15, 2006 at 8:54 am

    I have really been enjoying your posts this month on the call of God. Post after post has been filled with great truth. It is true that we need a different view on the call of God!

  2. Phil McAlmond
    December 15, 2006 at 9:47 am

    Amen!

  3. December 15, 2006 at 1:28 pm

    Phil,

    After reading this post of yours, http://abmi.wordpress.com/2006/11/27/a-vision-of-hell-and-a-call-to-the-ministry/ , I’m thinking that you don’t really get what Dave, Jeff, and Kent are writing about. Maybe your “Amen” was sarcastic?

  4. December 15, 2006 at 3:07 pm

    I clicked on that link Bobby, and you are correct in saying that is not what we were talking about. Well, we did talk about it, but it was in a very, very negative way.

  5. Phil McAlmond
    December 15, 2006 at 3:55 pm

    Maybe I am not getting it and if this is the case I am sorry and admit that I must be out of the loop here. I re-read the above post and again I would have to say, amen.

    My perspective on what I have read isn’t to take what you have written as gospel or the only perspective or take on the call of God, but as a perspective that I can appreciate and respect and even in some aspects say amen to, as indeed I have.

    So, in response to your concern about my saying amen and that I possibly was being sarcastic I can honestly say, no it was not and I wouldn’t do that anyway.

    Sorry for the confusion if there was any and it most certainly seems there was.

    Blessings in Christ Jesus! [and no this isn’t sarcastic either 🙂 ]

  6. December 15, 2006 at 5:31 pm

    Phil, thanks for coming by and reading.

  7. December 15, 2006 at 6:13 pm

    Thanks for coming Phil, and thanks for reading, but I also don’t want someone coming here and reading to leave here with a wrong understanding on this. Thanks though.

  8. December 15, 2006 at 9:21 pm

    Great post!

    Not only was this true of Isaiah, but after Job saw the Lord he said, “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

    John after seeing the Lord, said, “when I saw Him, I fell at his feet as as dead.”

    The closer we get to God, the more wretched we see ourselves. Thus, those who are called do not base their calling on their righteousness, for they see themselves as “undone.”

    Those called know it is only of the grace of God. God does not look at us and say, “Wow there is somebody I could use!” No, I believe he does see those who desire to be used of God and are willing to do what it takes. They have a desire to follow the Lord and will do what he requires, by the grace of God.

    The calling of Elisha is a good example if this. He was simply working his ground when the call came. He was not in the school of the prophets at the time, although, after words he became the top student of Elijah. The Lord knew his heart. He knew he would be willing to leave family and worldly goals behind; willing to “count them but dung that I may win Christ.” Today, many “called preachers” simply want to pastor a church that comes with a nice parsonage, good salary, health benefits, retirement package. They determine if they are “called” to pastor a particular church on carnal circumstances alone. Thus, they stay for 3.5 years and are then “called” to a new location with better benefits and not as many battles. After all, if the Lord wanted him to say longer, there would not be battles. The battles must mean the Lord is leading in a different direction! Convenient logic to the least!

  9. December 16, 2006 at 4:43 am

    I finally got around to reading Phil’s amazing story of his vision. It is inspiring and I could almost visualize it myself. I think sometimes great stories like these are told in youth meetings and they become the basis of young men’s own “visions” and “calls” to the ministry.

    Generally, the point that is being made is that there is much more than the mystical element of the call that needs to be evidenced before someone goes “into the ministry.”

  10. December 16, 2006 at 1:54 pm

    Jeff,

    That’s a good point. I had a vision last night that told me to eat more carbohydrates, something I haven’t had much of since I started this diet to lose about 15. It is better than a Diet of Worms like Martin Luther had. Since not eating, I’ve had a burning in the bosom. My interpretation is: I’m on a diet and my body is addicted to the number of carbs I normally eat. Too bad, huh? I agree that stories are hyped and people covet the same experience and out of that desire comes the vision, a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy; you wanted it and you got it. Visions especially work that way. I wanted carbs and my vision gave them to me.

  11. December 16, 2006 at 5:41 pm

    Great post.

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