By Cheryl Mah
In our walk with Christ, we should focus our attention on several aspects – the Upward Call, the Inward Call as well as the Outward Call (read Rev Anthony Lee’s 2021 message here). Firstly, we must focus on God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit – and the need to continually give praise and honour that is due to them (upward call).
Secondly, we need to take an inward look at ourselves by constantly growing and re-examining ourselves to see what needs to be fixed (inward call). Thirdly, we must look outward toward our brethren by addressing the need to serve and love one another, and share the Good News of God’s love and salvation (outward call).
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Upward Call: To Love God
Although God calls all men to reflect His image and glory (1 Corinthians 11:7), men have turned away from this upward call by sinning. Despite this, God, in His great love, has provided a way for sinners to return to Him – through the death of His Son Jesus Christ on the cross (John 3:16).
While God’s grace makes it free for us to be reconciled to God (Romans 5:8), when Jesus beckons us to follow Him (Luke 9:23-24), He makes it clear that there is a high price to pay for discipleship (Luke 14:27). Why is that? Simply said – for us to follow Jesus, we will not only have to face trials and tribulations but are also required to die to ourselves (Colossians 3:3).
One of God’s greatest commandments is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). In that case, since a whole or “pure heart” is considered the perfect quality (Matthew 5:8), then “with all one’s heart” is the perfect quantity (Jeremiah 29:13).
Inward Call: To Love Yourself (And Your Community)
Jesus said that we should love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37). To love everyone equally is a true sign of our love for God and our desire to live in a Christ-like way (Philippians 2:5). As 1 Peter 2:5 says, all of us are like living stones being built into a spiritual house of God, therefore – empowered by the Holy Spirit – we have the duty and ability as believers to build up this house together (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Some Christians put themselves down as miserable sinners who are unworthy of love. They are hard on themselves when they sin or make mistakes, and the idea of loving themselves seems repugnant. On the other extreme, there are Christians who are driven by selfishness, pride, and arrogance; simply put – they are too full of themselves.
There is a direct relationship between our relationship with God (“vertical” relationship) and our relationship with others (“horizontal” relationship). How we love our brothers and sisters (horizontally) reflects our belief and understanding about how God loves us (vertically) (John 13:35). It is through the building of such relationships that the ministry of believers can be lived out, and in which mission and evangelism flow – so that others may experience God’s love. We have all been given a unique set of time, talent, and treasure from God – and we can use them to love and serve our community by meeting their unique needs in practical ways (James 2:15–16).
Outward Call: To Love Others
Jesus sees our relationship with God as completely connected to and inseparable from our relationship with others. He himself came to tear away all unnecessary barriers – and so we should, too. God’s love has the immense power to bring life and freedom to mould us so that we will never be the same again.
Additionally, Scripture makes it clear that all believers have the love of God in their hearts (Romans 5:5). As 1 John 4:8 reminds us: “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love”. We love because He first loved us – and because God’s love resides in us, we can truly love others.
It is not possible to say that we love God if we do not love others, because we would be actively disobeying the commandment that Jesus gave us. When Jesus told His disciples they would be recognised by their love for one another (John 13:35), they were – as are we – expected to follow the example He laid out. With the freedom and blessings that His sacrifice was given to us, so is the expectation for us to love and care for others.
When Jesus says, “Come follow me,” He is not calling us to offer a class or start a programme, but rather, to follow His way of life. That includes opening our homes and lives to others. Before we can do this, however, we must first open our hearts daily to God.
2 Timothy 1:9
“He has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.”
- Was there a time in your life where you have been strongly prompted by God’s call to live your life differently?
- How will you respond to God’s call to follow Him more closely today?
- What obstacles do you face that prevent you from responding to God’s call of discipleship?