Theology of Work - Lesson 6


Gerry Breshears
Theology of Work
Lesson 6
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Lesson 6 - Calling/Vocation



  1. Types of Calling:


A. Called to be believers


Romans 1


B. Called to be like Christ


2 Corinthians 2:14


  1. Finding my Calling


Class Resources

We are created in God's image and God invites us to be co-workers with him. By developing and using the spiritual gifts God has given us, the tasks we perform when we work have eternal significance in themselves. We also have opportunities to interact with our co-workers, promote justice and enjoy times of rest.

So what is God calling you to do? Is his calling only for pastors and “professional ministers” or is it something that applies to all of his people? Dr. Gerry Breshears, professor of systematic theology at Western Seminary, explores key questions such as who God is, what he has created people to be, how being the image of God affects the way we approach work, and what is the role of spiritual gifts in our job. This course will expand your vision of what work is all about, as you come to see yourself as God’s co-worker and representative.

Theology of Work

Dr. Gerry Breshears



Lesson Transcript


A topic that's drive been learning a lot about and still have a lot to learn. Is this topic of calling or vacation on. It's one of these historic topics in the church that kind of went out of favor when I started seminary. Well, back in the seventies, it was very popular. Say there's no such thing as a call to ministry. And the scripture studies were done supposedly to prove that. And I never quite believed that. And I still don't. In fact, I've gone the other direction. And now a fair number of the the new studies that are coming out on this idea of calling are going the other way. One of the one of the books that I really like is, you know, I got in here somewhere. One of the books I really like here is is Jean Edward Veith called God at Work, your Christian Vocation in all of Life. And he has a some really good material here on vocation. I really like it. Another book that I found real helpful is by Awesome Guinness called Calling. I just very simple book, but profound. And there's a number of other stories that are another wrote, other books that come out that are helpful. I but the idea of calling what I'm looking at is, is coming from Scripture because I'm one of these Bible guys. I look at the book of. Romans you know, what a powerful book or Paul's Sermon of Christ Jesus called to be an apostle Boy. Is that a vocation or what? I mean, how can another call to be an apostle and set apart for the Gospel of God, the gospel he promised. So he is called He has a vocation to be an apostle. And we all think back to the Damascus Road where Jesus appeared to him.


He was slammed to the ground, this incredible I mean, he he got saved at that spot. It was a calling to be saved, but it was also a calling to service. And particularly to be an apostle. He is to be the apostle to the Gentiles and shown by Antonius how much he will suffer in that calling it. It's. Is there a calling? Yeah. And people would argue, well, you know, that was maybe just for the apostolic era and not anymore. I don't see any reason why that would be true. None whatsoever. There's nothing that says those kinds of calling stop on. But then I keep on reading here. It talks about the, uh, the spirit of holiness and power through him. And for his namesake, we received Grace and Apostle ship to and here's another calling to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. So there's another calling. The calling here is to get saved. And we find that calling and it goes on in verse seven to all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints. Okay, so called Paul's call to be an apostle. All people are called to the obedience that comes through faith, through to call to be saved. And then the people in Rome who have responded to the gospel call are called to be saints. That is set apart. Ones who are set apart to the body of Jesus Christ. And with you going, look at that. It's a pretty amazing passage there. And the different kinds of calling you look in first Corinthians chapter one, and we have very similar kinds of things. First Corinthians, Paul's called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.


Any call He talks to people, the sanctified and Christ Jesus, and called to be Hagar's holy, set apart, to go with those everywhere who call in the Lord Jesus Christ. So we have that same kind of thing called and called. And we could we could go through and unpack that in, in other passages of Scripture, because it comes up pretty often. We have these various vocations, First Corinthians two 1204 to 11 as from starting four, you know, that we dealt with each of you as a father, deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting, urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. That call is that vocation is called to be saved, called to be holy. All to Be Saints called to be worthy of the gospel. Calling comes a lot of different dimensions here. Let me just think with you a little bit and my current stage and gosh, I've got a lot to learn. So maybe some of you got some ideas and you can feed them back on this side. That idea of calling. I'm well, the first calling, of course, is that calling to be saved, that calling to come to Jesus. One of the passages that just entreat I mean, I'm so intrigued with Scripture gospel just fascinates me. And I hope it does you to John Chapter 12, John to up to 12, verse 32. Jesus is talking about his his death and predicting it. And there's quite a story there in John. Chapter 12 is doing that, and as it comes in toward the end of it, in my heart is troubled. What shall I say, Father, Savior for this hour? No, that's why I've come here. He's talking about his own calling to come into the world, and it goes on, Oh, the father speaks positively to him.


But then in verse 12, Chapter John, Chapter 12, verse 32, and I, when I am lifted up from the Earth, talk about his crucifixion, will draw all people to myself. So there's a drawing. Same idea is calling. He is drawing all people to himself. I'm in that calling, then goes out to the whole world. And then a little different phrase in John chapter 16 in the upper room discourse where he's talking about the Ministry of the Holy Spirit. He says that John 16, verse eight, When he comes, he will convict the world of sin, regard to sin, righteousness and judgment. He will convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. And he goes on and talks about that a little bit because and so what he's doing here is he's convicting the world. He's but I think that's a calling to recognize our sin and and to recognize righteousness and to recognize judgment. And we could go on and talk about that. I think the call to the gospel is really our first calling as I I start unpacking this a little bit, got some notes to think about here or that first calling really or is to get saved. So our our first vocation is to be Christian. And at one level, everybody is called to that at another level in First Corinthians and Romans and such, it talks about the called those who actually are Christian. Our first vocation is to come to God and to follow Jesus. And when we think about that, he that that's the the the power of God is to call us into relationship with himself through Jesus Christ. And so we're called at that level. So the first calling is simply to be a Christian. But he saw in Romans and first Corinthians was a step beyond that.


And there's a calling that comes in a Christian's life to be like Christ. And when I when I think of that calling are the Parker Palmer in his book on calling says the deepest vocation question is not what ought I do with my life? It's more elemental and demanding. Who am I? What is my nature? What am I made for? And calling is something that God puts on my life and I am called to him in that I'm called to be like him. And that's what relates to Image of God, which is another module we are called to Christ and to be like Christ, to be like God, so that what we do for our nature is to be our walking icons. What we're called to be is walking. Jesus is living. Jesus is in the image of God, as I talked about in the other module, is that amazing ability and awesome responsibility to make visible the invisible characteristics of our Creator and redeemer. We are to go into a place such that we are the very presence and power of Jesus Christ. A passage that just intrigues me to no end has for years when I first saw it so can. Corinthians Chapter two. I actually ran into the verse through reading and Carl Bart, and this is one of the passages that just haunted him. Me too. Second Corinthians 214 Thanks be to God, who always lead to some triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere. The fragrance of the knowledge of Him spread everywhere. The fragrance of the knowledge of Christ. Are you smelly? Have you taken a shower in Jesus so that you spread the fragrance of Jesus everywhere? He says, That's a calling that we have and we do it everywhere, for we're to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.


And then he says, for the one where the smell of death and for the other, the fragrance of life, who is adequate for these things, we are called to be smelly like Jesus. It's a vocation in our life. And this isn't just a vocation that's given to pastors. This isn't just a vocation to teachers in the church isn't a vocation just to. It's everywhere for everyone. This vocation to be smelly like Jesus, God and this this vocation. Well, when I think back in the history of the church, the vocation was to be a pastor, be a priest, actually in the early church, or to be a nun or a a monk. And so when you received a vocation, this is the language still in the Roman Catholic Church, we see vocation means that we receive a call to serve in the sacred ministry of priesthood or the mass take orders. And in the Reformation era, that's something that that was really challenged, especially by Martin Luther. And and I agree with that. I think that we are called to be the fragrance of Jesus Christ, to be walking icons, to be like Jesus anywhere we go. And that well, that's what we call the universal priesthood. I'm in first, Peter, Chapter two and Revelation Chapter one. It talks about as priests of the most high God and talks about all of us, not just the ordained folk like me, but all of us are called to be priests of the most high God. And what that would mean if we're priests, the most high God is that we all of us carry that presence of Jesus Christ with us. All of us can come into the very presence of God and not just pastors and not just missionaries, but everybody.


Priest of God means that when I go wherever I go, I am making the presence of God visible. I'm so a guy that that I'm just getting to know I have a lot of Vietnamese friends and students here. And there was a a bishop in Vietnam in the seventies and eighties, in the early in the year of the Vietnam War. And just after Francis Xavier Nguyen von One wrote he was in prison for a very long time and wrote from prison like Dietrich Bonhoeffer. And these were collected together in the in the The Road of Hope, a gospel from prison. And one of the things he says there that's just just were called to be saints in here. He said saints do not do anything extraordinary. They simply carry out their ordinary activities. The worker will be a saint in the workplace, a soldier become a saint in the army, a patient become a saint. In the hospital, the student become a saint. Through studies, the priest will become a saint through his ministry as a priest and a public servant will become a saint in the government office. Every step on the road to holiness is a step of sacrifice in the performance of one's called ministry in his life, there's the vocation. No matter what you're doing, no matter where you are. A patient at a hospital, I think Kathy Barry, a member of our church who just went in the presence of Jesus, she had an extraordinary impact on the people. The floor at Mount Hood Legacy Hospital, just because she was the fragrance of Jesus Christ as she was dying of heart failure. Astonishing woman, a priest as a patient in the hospital. Martin Luther said priests and bishops are supposed to employ God's word in the sacraments.


That is their work on office. Each shoemaker. Smith Farmer. And the like, who has his own office and trade, and nevertheless all are equally consecrated priests and bishops. Now, remember what he's saying here. The shoemaker, the Smith, the farmer, the father, the mother. All consecrated priests and bishops. And each with his own office and work is to provide aid and service to the others. Martin Luther, I think, is exactly right. I think that's the eternal priesthood. I do the presence of God no matter where I'm at. And everywhere I go, I ask, I am I the presence of Jesus Christ here today? Am I filling my office? Whether it's a school teacher, a physician, a Safeway clerk, whatever. Am I doing it in that way? And I really believe that's the case. Our plan is our calling. Our vocation is to serve the Divine Rescue mission, the Kingdom of God, no matter where we're at and no matter what we're doing. And the idea and I think this is important, the idea that our vocation isn't just ministry and is or it is ministry, it isn't just being pastor or missionary. I am to do the image of God I to make the sweet aroma of the fragrance of Jesus Christ everywhere I go. So whether I'm doing this in a courtroom, whether I'm doing it in a hospital room, what I'm doing in a teacher's desk, or whether I'm doing it in a cube, whether I'm in the boardroom, or whether I'm behind the wheel of a truck, or if I'm underneath the truck, like the guy who is fixing my tire, whether I'm picking up toys off the floor, the vocation of motherhood, perhaps, or fatherhood. You know, fathers, you get to pick up toys to washing food off walls.


Yeah, Dad, you do that to filling out job applications. If you're unemployed and looking to provide painting a house, cleaning the streets, performing the Eucharist, preaching sermons, whatever you do. We do it as a vocation, a calling from the Lord Jesus Christ. Anywhere. That vocation. It's a call that's put on our life. You think you know I need to find my calling? Well, there's a truth to that. But my finding, my calling is not something from inside, calling it something that's coming from another home. I want to tell you, we talk about getting called on the phone or somebody else is calling me. I in the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are called by God. Paul makes that very clear in Romans and First Corinthians, Peter and First Peter five we are called by God. I don't have a full range of choice. Now I have a calling to a type of ministry. I think within that there's possibilities. But finding my calling means matching my abilities, my personality, my passions with the opportunities they're available. The Vietnamese priest was imprisoned. Dietrich Bonhoeffer spent years in prison. They didn't have the freedom, but they exercised their vocation with power. And we benefit from their books of letters and papers written for prison. Vocation is God's calling on us to serve with Him and for Him for the creation of Shalom human flourishing in the world, so that the world would be more like God designed it to be. Mother Teresa is a hero, just about everybody. And one of her famous quotes is this We can do no great things, only small things with great love and doing that in the name of Jesus by the spirit of Jesus, for the love of God and for the love of the world that God loves, we will be faithful to the deepest vocation that comes to us all.


So my challenge to you in this whole idea of the theology of work is not so much find your vocation those as reality, but pursue your vocation by the power of the Holy Spirit, by the Enablement of Jesus Christ, and following His example for the love of God who loves the whole world and of to die for it. Vocation of Jesus Christ.


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