Today I’m going to do something I’ve never quite done before.
I initially sat down to write this after meditating on and praying into just what building the Lord’s church looks like. I had recently talked to a friend and teacher of mine in Bible school named Bob Gladstone that helped stir some things up in my foundational thinking.
Simultaneous to that I just finished reading Frank Viola’s book From Eternity To Here, and came across something that gave words to what I’ve been feeling. From there, a spark was ignited and I initially planned on this being a simple blog post, but it kept getting longer so I decided to see where inspiration took me. In the end I wound up using the following to “preach” on the latest episode of the podcast.
It’s a challenge and hopefully an encouragement. If you’d rather listen as a long blog post is too much for you to make it through without a coffee, make sure to download the podcast (download here).
Here we go.
You can never satisfy the dream of God while living in Babylon. His house simply cannot be built there. In addition, it will cost you something to leave Babylon. It will come at a price. Frank Viola, From Eternity to Here
I’ve been thinking about and meditating on the concept of “many are called but few are chosen”. Jesus said this in the Gospel of Matthew in the parable of The Marriage Feast:
And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:1-14, ESV)
It’s interesting to me to note that many were invited to the marriage feast. In this writing we won’t cover the church of God as a Bride, or as a building, because those concepts are beyond the scope of today’s article. But I want to draw attention to the fact that many were invited to the wedding, rejected the invitation, and the king invited others. Then, amongst those who were present at the wedding, he kicked out some who were not dressed right. There is a lot to meditate on here and ponder.
Many are called to build God’s temple, His Bride. In fact, if you’re a Christian, and call Jesus Christ your Lord, you’ve been tasked with the responsibility to invite others to the Marriage Feast of The Lamb. You don’t have a say in this. You have been tasked with whatever means necessary at your disposal to build God’s temple, a habitation with which He wants to dwell. Some are called to stay and partner with those who are called to go, whether that be across town or across the globe. We all have a role to play, even if that’s providing resources to those doing a different particular building task than we are.
Are You Ignoring The Call To Go?
This reflection came to me on the heels of having just recently heard a statistic that quoted George Verwer, founder of Operation Mobilization, as having said that 95% of people who receive a call from the Lord to the nations as missionaries will stumble over the obstacle of support-raising1. This large majority will either not rise to the task of humbling themselves and asking others to partner with them financially, or they start but are not able to raise all their support, then give up, and ultimately don’t make it to the mission field.
Admittedly I have no idea if that statistic is correct or not. However, as a missionary who knows all too-well how challenging it is to raise 100% of your monthly budget, I can see the statistic being close to accurate and would not find it surprising.
But think of that for a moment.
Even if the number is not as high as 95% percent. Let’s say it’s only 50%. That is still a staggering number of people called but unable to fulfill the specific call God has tasked them with when it comes to a vocation that requires other members of the Body of Christ financing them.
I have been living in a developing nation for 5 1/2 years. I married a Peruvian. Coming from different backgrounds, the challenge of living in “another culture” and giving up personal comforts and familiarities applies in different ways for the both of us. That being said, it’s not true or even accurate to say that only Americans or Westerners face a challenge when God calls them to go on the mission field. The challenge to step out of your comfort zone exists no matter where you come from whether you come from abject poverty or the richest living conditions in America. Whether it requires learning a new language or not.
Many are called but few are chosen
This concept of a remnant is scattered all throughout Scripture.
For also, the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14)
I’ve had friends I’ve heard say things like when they get married they are going to go on the mission field for one year. You know, to give God the “first fruits of our our marriage”. Of course it’ll be just the first year and then the decades after that they’ll do their own thing and ask God to bless that because “He’s happy with us for going when others don’t do that much”.
Well, admittedly it’s not said that way but the implication is God only requires only first year. Just give Him the tithe and He won’t ask for the other 90 percent either.
Friend you and I don’t decide what God gets from us.
I remember when I worked at a summer camp outside of Toronto which was a lot of work, and very emotionally taxing on my personality at that time. We worked with children who came from high-risk families. Children who lived in what’s considered the projects or ghettos of Toronto. Those two months of summer felt like a lifetime, but for the fruit I saw, I loved it.
I remember when we were having a break and I went with a few other camp counsellors to go out for dinner and one of them said “I’ve given God all my mission work for the year in just this summer!” The implication was this was so much work it’s as though we were we were on the mission field for longer.
When I listened to this person say it I knew they were being sarcastic. But there was still a poignancy in her words because I know lot of people do feel that way. “This much for God, and no more! The rest is mine!” I’ve even heard someone half-jokingly suggest they knew God didn’t call them to the mission field because they were a picky eater and could never eat whatever is put before them under certain circumstances, as if the desires of our own palate are the way to gauge whether we’ll obey the call.
I truly believe many people don’t make it to whatever it is God has called of them, whether overseas or not, due to a lack of financing. But what about merely being willing to leave Babylon in the first place? How many people has God merely called to go, but He hasn’t been able to work with them on the financial aspect because they’re ignoring His leading on the first part?
Has He invited you to come up out of Babylon and help build his temple?
Has He invited you to be a part of His remnant?
Please hear me out: I don’t say this from an elevated perch on the mission field! You don’t have to go to the overseas or across cultures; God may be calling you to the other side of town, okay? So my focus is not foreign missions as I see this, but obedience to the calling of God on your life, wherever that takes you. It’s just foreign missions are the easy point of reference for me since that’s what I had to obey God in with my own life.
Will You Leave Your Babylon and Build God’s Temple Where He Decides?
For the last couple of years I’ve been teaching in our ministry school a lot about the temple destruction in the Old Testament and its rebuilding. While spending so much time in this area of the Old Testament narratives and prophets, I’ve noticed while the people of God were in captivity for 70 years they built new homes. I suppose people built new synagogues as well, started new businesses. When God sent word through the prophets to His people in that generation that He wanted to re-build His temple in Jerusalem, most did not want to go back. I draw this conclusion since out of the 2 million people in captivity only about 50,000 people went back to Jerusalem. That’s about 2.5%!
The Jewish people survived in Babylon because the Babylonians allowed them to settle in towns and villages along the River Chebar, which was an irrigation channel. They were allowed to live together in communities, and allowed to farm and perform other sorts of labor to earn income. Many likely became wealthy because of the influence of certain Jews who ministered in the palace of Babylon, like Daniel and his friends. Many became comfortable. Then after the time of captivity was over, the time to rebuild the Lord’s temple and the city of Jerusalem came…
Many were called, but few were chosen.
As stated before, the Bible speaks of a remnant many times throughout the Old and New Testaments. At this point the people in captivity did not want to obey the call to go back to their homeland and build the Lord’s Temple.
Let that sink in for a moment: they were in captivity.
They may have been comfortable by now.
They may have had warm running water.
They may have been able to drive nice cars and afford the latest Apple gadgets in their new land.
They may have had good health insurance.
But they were not truly in a land of their own, with God Himself as their King and His presence abiding in the temple built in the location of His choosing.
I hold the conviction that a large portion of the body of Christ want to stay put, building their own empires and staying where they are and merely giving some of their income to missions or Kingdom-minded works. If you can’t give up the comforts or whatever is holding you back in order to build the Lord’s temple and make disciples wherever that may call you, you’re missing out on God’s ultimate purpose. In fact, it’s possible that giving abundantly and generously of your sustenance to missions is someone’s way of pacifying their conscience and ignoring the call God’s put on you to go — only He can be the judge. But I wouldn’t doubt it happens for one moment! I know many want to stay and not go.
Again, I’m not talking specifically about overseas or foreign lands and learning a new language in another culture, though if that applies to you, I encourage you to obey that calling. But I am primarily talking about going and obeying the Lord for whatever He’s calling you to.
Are You Telling God What You’ll Do Or Can He Trust You To Let Him Call The Shots?
My wife was recently asking someone what the Lord had to say about a monumental decision this person was making and the friend snapped at her and insisted “I’ve made up my mind”.
Lili told me “I didn’t ask them if they made up THEIR mind, but I asked what was God saying?”
You might be a pastor of a large mega church and a mere fraction of one Sunday’s offering pays your salary for one entire year. The Lord might be telling you to do something that has much less financial stability to the ministry you’re currently doing, and you’ve decided not to go.
On the flip side, you might be in something “organic” that God is calling you to come out of. You may be outside of what you perceive to be the “structure” or “system” that you preach and speak against but yet God, for reasons known to Him, is calling you to be a part of. Disobedience to the Lord’s calling can work either way, but my point is this: you can’t build God’s temple within Babylon.
What it is your Babylon?
What is God telling you to build or where is He telling you to go that you’re resisting? What programs may the Lord be calling you to uproot and cancel in your church that you couldn’t because that might offend one of your large tithers who’ll pack up their bags and head somewhere else that provides that program?
If you’ve in effect told the Lord you would rather stay in Babylon than exit your comfort zone and go rebuild (or build) His temple, His people, you will give an account of that to Him one day. Like the business man who went on a trip and gave talents to his servants to invest, you’ll be called to give an account of why you buried it in the ground and didn’t leave your comfort zone and take risks. And like Israel in Babylon, the Parable of the Marriage Feast mentioned at the outset teaches us that when the King sends His servants out to gather the wedding guests to the wedding feast, many of those invited refuse to come, some because they were too busy with their own worldly pursuits.
Now hear me out, again: those who go are not better than those who stay. Some are called to stay. For them this is not Babylon and they have left all the worldly Babylon behind in order to obey God’s call. Some who have gone were not called to go (trust me, I’ve met some) but were fulfilling their own inner personal desire, bereft of the Lord’s leading. These had something to prove, and will give an account with why they tried building something they were not called to build. David couldn’t fight Goliath wearing Saul’s armor, but only with the word the Lord gave Him — to use a rock.
In Babylon while the city of God laid in ruins, Yahweh wanted His temple rebuilt and His home could only be rebuilt in Jerusalem. Unfortunately most of His people cared more for their own interests and their own comfort than they did for the Lord’s house. Even amongst the remnant of God’s people who returned to Jerusalem to build the temple, only a remnant returned to building after the construction had ceased for a number of years after the neighboring peoples intimidated them into ceasing construction of the temple and the city walls.
When the prophets called the remnant to get back to building the temple again of those who had returned from Exile. Those people Haggai or Zechariah prophesied to instead show the Lord’s Temple remains in ruins while you build your own homes.
Beloved, will you obey the Lord’s command to come up out of Babylon?