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InDepth
The Believer's Three Callings, Part 3


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In the previous articles in this series, I discussed the Great Commandment and the Great Commission and argued that these were two of the three things God has called us to do.  The Great Commandment, with a focus on loving our neighbor, means seeking our neighbors’ highest good. This finds expression in the Great Commission, since our neighbors’ eternal fate depends on their response to Jesus. Our third calling—the Cultural Mandate—is also an expression of love of neighbor but applied directly to our life in this world.

The Cultural Mandate
The Cultural Mandate is not a topic that is discussed much except in some Reformed circles. The idea goes back to the very creation of humanity in Genesis 1:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen. 1:26-28)

In the ancient Near East, saying someone was the image of a god meant that the person had divine authority to rule as that god’s regent on earth. That this was the intention in Genesis is shown by the fact that immediately after saying we would be made in God’s image, we are given dominion over the earth and everything in it. Dominion is expressed by being fruitful and multiplying, and filling and subduing the earth.

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Heavenly Sleep in Peace, Part 2


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Last week a question was proposed: Is it possible in this 21st Century world to sleep in peace when conflicting and challenging worldviews continually create global chaos and unsettledness? Prompted by the last few words of the Christmas carol, “Silent Night, Holy Night,” is it possible to “sleep in heavenly peace”? Having become a nightly ritual with bedtime prayer, my granddaughter finds great solace through the repetition of this song. She slips off to sleep with the soothing and calming words of a baby born that came to bring “peace on earth” (Lk 2:14).

This baby redefined what “peace on earth” means when He grew up and fulfilled His mission on earth. Christ came to establish the Kingdom of God. When teaching how to pray to God, He said: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is heaven” (Mt 6:10). In establishing it, He said that He did not come to bring peace but “I came to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already set ablaze! But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how it consumes Me until it is finished! Do you think that I came here to give peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!” (Lk 12: 49-51 HCSB).

The plan of peace Christ came to restore isn’t earthly but is our relationship with God. While on earth when reconciled with God through Christ, we can have this peace: “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful” (John 14:27 HCSB).

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The Believer's Three Callings, Part 2


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In the previous article, I argued that a fully-formed biblical worldview recognizes three callings on the life of the believer: the Great Commandment, the Great Commission, and the Cultural Mandate. Of these, the Great Commandment is the most important, and the other two flow from there. For a number of reasons when dealing with the commandments, Jesus, Paul, and John all put a particular emphasis on loving our neighbor; in fact, John argues that we cannot love God without loving our neighbor. The biblical definition of love focuses on action more than emotion, and can be summarized as a selfless seeking of our neighbor’s highest good. This includes dealing with our neighbor’s physical needs, but it also includes looking out for their spiritual well-being. And that brings us to the theme of this article, the Great Commission.

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Heavenly Sleep in Peace, Part 1


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Silent night! Holy night! All is calm, all is bright...” On several occasions, my privilege has been to not only share a bedtime prayer with one of my young granddaughters but to sing this song that has become a treasured and nightly ritual to her. No matter how hectic, troubling, or exciting her day as a preschooler has been, the calming words “sleep in heavenly peace” lull her to sleep.

The troubles and trials that overcome this preschooler in most cases are mild and short-lived in comparison to what will come later in life. Yet, this song imbedded in her mind and heart begins the preparation for the day when she becomes aware of the age-old cosmic battle that is taking place in, through, and around this world. While in this world, she not only must acknowledge it but its effects on her. To become all she is meant to be and to make her way in this world, she must face the reality of this battle and make the choice of how she will stand.

Is it possible in this 21st-century world to sleep in peace when conflicting and challenging worldviews continually create global chaos and unsettledness?

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The Believer's Three Callings, Part 1


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When evangelical Christians think about God’s purpose for the church and for their lives, they often think almost entirely in terms of evangelism. Growing in personal integrity and holiness of life also fits in, but sharing the Gospel is frequently seen as the single most important thing we can do for God and for our neighbor.

While I certainly do not want to downplay the importance of evangelism, it is only part of God’s purpose for us. If we want a comprehensive picture of God’s intentions for us in this world, we need to think in terms of three inter-related callings: the Great Commandment, the Great Commission, and the Cultural Mandate. Of those three, the Great Commandment is central, and the Great Commission and the Cultural Mandate flow from it and feed into each other.

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The Gospel and the Law, Part 4 The Ceremonial Law


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In our previous articles, we discussed the Moral Law, the New Covenant, and the Civil Law. We need to turn now to the Ceremonial Law.

The Ceremonial Law deals with holiness and ritual purity before God. Although this may sound like laws dealing with religion, this is only partly the case. In the modern world, where we have a distinction between state and religion, it is easy to think of the Civil Law as the law of the state and the Ceremonial Law as the religious rules and regulations of Israel. Unfortunately, the distinction is not so clear in ancient Israel: as in much of the ancient world, religion and government were intricately intertwined.

For example, the Torah includes a number of laws dealing with the Levites, the tribe set apart to serve God and to lead Israel in worship. Details about where they live, many details of their work, the handling of tithes, etc., are not concerned with the issue of holiness per se, and thus are not part of the Ceremonial Law; they instead fall under the Civil Law. In general, regulations that do not pertain to holiness or purity do not fall under the Ceremonial Law but the Civil Law.

Conversely, there are many regulations that do not seem to be particularly religious that deal with issues of purity and thus fall under the Ceremonial Law. The kosher laws for food, the laws dealing with behaviors that make one “unclean,” etc., are not on the surface religious laws but because they deal with issues of ritual purity; they are part of the Ceremonial Law

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