By Johnnie C. Godwin
Contributing Columnist, B&R
In September 2001, I was in Moscow at the Cosmos Hotel when my phone rang at 11 p.m. Surprisingly, it was Andrei — a friend we had met in 1989. Andrei urgently wanted to meet with me before he and his family would emigrate from Russia within 48 hours. We agreed to meet in a fast-food kiosk near the hotel; and I learned of Andrei’s plans to leave Russia for other countries in the free world. They could take nothing but a small carry-on. They had a few rubles, but rubles weren’t convertible outside Russia. I offered dollars, but Andrei said customs agents would take them at the border.
Besides freedom, Andrei needed currency that would be convertible in the free world — a currency he couldn’t get behind the Iron Curtain. Andrei had made a life-changing decision that was radical but essential for him. So we had prayer, and I figured my amen was the last we would ever see of Andrei and his family. But 31 years later, we are still in touch. And Andrei has a spiritual currency!
I’ve chosen six words to represent the whole “salvation symphony” (decisive words for your decision journey with Jesus), Those six words are: calling, conversion, discipleship, servanthood, friendship and apostleship.
Calling. A pre-Christian calling is God’s loving invitation to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, once and for all (see John 3:16-18; Ephesians 2:8-10). I was saved and baptized at age 7, but I didn’t feel any other particular calling from God for me until age 15. In time, I began to see that God has a calling for each Christian at every stage and turning point in all of life (Ephesians 4:1). Now, I can only refer to “God’s amazing maze of grace.” At age 85, I’m somewhat like the apostle Paul writing to Timothy. Paul testified of his calling in God’s grace and answering faithfully with his life. I firmly believe God in Christ has a calling for everyone who chooses by grace through faith to be saved. God’s calling likely gets revealed to us a step at a time as we listen and make decisions to say yes to God in all of life’s journey
Conversion. Jesus came preaching the good news and saying, “Repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). That command and invitation was for all the world. Until each person owns up to his own sin and trusts Jesus as Lord and Savior, the person’s life is not converted. Spiritually, his life is dead as a Russian ruble was outside of Russia in 1991. But the turning in trust to Jesus as Lord and Savior opens the door for all of life’s journey in making decisions for time and eternity. We humans have to be converted for God to use us as His currency in this world: Saved souls need to be useful!
Have you begun the essential part of God’s Salvation symphony — the parts of hearing God’s calling and your doing an about face to say yes to Him? Excellent! But there is much more to the symphony!
Discipleship. When Jesus knew that it was time for Him to begin His earthly ministry, He began to preach the same salvation message to all the multitudes. He knew, however, that He would choose 12 special disciples to teach and train them to reach all the world with the gospel. The word “disciple” in Greek means a learner. While all Christians are called to be disciples in learning and obeying God’s will, the first 12 — and then others — were called in a special way. They were like a seminary class of students to learn all they could from Jesus in about three years—like a seminary education. Then would come a time for graduation. But that graduation would not be the end of learning. Discipleship is a calling for all of life. Otherwise, we might be saved but smell singed (I Corinthians 3:14-15).
Servanthood/friendship. Jesus called the 12 disciples to a new life of servitude that they would enter by their own free will and choice. The word for “servant” may also mean “slave.” The disciples’ were to be as obedient to Jesus as a slave to his master. But being called Jesus’ friend elevates the servitude to friendship. The disciples’ calling was to prepare by learning but also to serve Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
When Jesus was ready to graduate the first seminary class — before His crucifixion, resurrection and ascension — He told His disciples this: “Henceforth I call you not slaves [or servants] . … I have called you friends; for all things I have heard of my Father I have made known to you” (See John 15:15). All Christians choose wisely for time and eternity if they answer the calling wherein God has called them for all of life (see Ephesians 4:1; IICorinthians 5:18-20.). God does the calling, but we are to do the answering; and our lifetime answer to God ought always be “Yes!”
Apostleship. The 12 disciples (minus Judas who betrayed Jesus) were to become apostles. Now, Greek has two words for “send.” One is “Pempo” and just means to send in general. But the word “apostello” means to send on a mission.
So these 12 were called and trained to become Great Commission Apostles (see Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; II Corinthians 5:20). We may not be apostles in the formal sense, but all of us Christians are called to be witnesses and ministers of reconciliation (see Acts 1:8; II Corinthians 5:18-20). We are to be God’s ambassadors, who represent the presence of our King in the courts of another. That is our lifetime calling! (See John 16:7-13; II Timothy 4:6-8).
Conclusion. So what? Jesus taught that whosoever will may come to Him. To participate in the “Salvation Symphony” you have to come to Jesus and receive Him as Lord and Savior. The Savior part is essential for spiritual life to occur. Otherwise we remain dead in our sins and trespasses.
But the grace notes of the symphony are, servanthood, friendship, and witness as an apostle. If we examine ourselves and are sure about our calling and conversion, then our job is discipleship!
We are to be disciples in modeling the Christ-like life for others to see. For as long as we live, we are to teach others about Jesus and being baptized (see Matthew 28:16-30). And as long as we live, we are to reprise “The Salvation Symphony” (See Ephesians 6:10-20). B&R — Copyright by Johnnie C. Godwin, 2022.