While I knew it was coming, I was still waiting with great anticipation for the Mayor to call my name. Despite all the assurances by the bureaucrats and office clerks that my application had been successful, it wasn’t going to be official until the person in charge, the one with the right authority, called my name. After what seemed like an eternity sitting in that cavernous Town Hall, I finally heard the Mayor call out “Stephen Lindemann!” Then, and only then, was I free to walk forward and accept my certificate of Australian Citizenship.
As wonderful as it was to become an Australian citizen all those years ago, it’s my citizenship in Heaven that matters the most (cf. Phil. 3:20-21; 2 Cor. 5:2; Eph. 2:4-7,19; Col. 3:1-4). Over 50 years ago I heard my call from God to become His child, and by implication one of His Heavenly citizens.
The Bible makes many dozens of references to the Believer’s call by God. Theologians refer to it as the doctrine of election, or predestination. A big word for a big concept – one that has befuddled Christians for centuries. (cf. Jer. 1:5; John 6:44 & 15:16; Mark 13:20; Acts 13:48; Rom. 8:28-33; Gal. 1:15; Eph. 1:3-12; 1 Thess. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13-15; 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1-5; etc.)
The basic, yet profound, idea behind our calling is that God chose us, we didn’t choose Him. Sure, we’re responsible for how we respond to God’s call (cf. John 5:39-40), but there’s nothing we bring or can ever do that warrants us to be called in the first place.
In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul wrote:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved.” (Eph. 1:3-6)
Paul was echoing the words of Isaiah the prophet who wrote:
“Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The LORD called me from the womb, from the body of my mother He named my name.” (Isa. 49:1)
Isn’t that amazing?! We were divinely called by God before we ever born! Before the world was created! That means it’s impossible for anyone to earn their salvation. There’s nothing anyone can do to be worthy of God’s call. It’s 100% grace (cf. Eph. 2:4-9).
It is also 100% personal. God knows each of us by name, because He gave us our name (cf. Eph. 3:15). I am convinced that in addition to our earthly name given to us by our earthly parents, we each have a special Heavenly name given to us by our Heavenly Father, to be revealed by Him upon our arrival to our Heavenly home.
Did you catch the last part of Isa. 49:1? It said “from the body of my mother He named my name.” Ephesians 3:14-15 says “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,” and in Isaiah 56:5, God said “I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” Jesus loved to use the ‘Good Shepherd’ analogy to describe Himself and His relationship to us, His sheep. One of the most memorable examples can be found in John 10:
“But He who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear His voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. … I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. … I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:2-4,11,14-15)
It’s a beautiful image. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, made us, named us, knows us, called us and saved us… not because of anything we’ve done or will ever do, but simply because He is good. All good. All the time (cf. Rom. 8:27-30).
If you’ve been feeling like a lost sheep these past weeks or months, don’t fret. Don’t submit to the temptation to wander from the safety of the sheepfold. Simply stop long enough to listen for the familiar voice of The Good Shepherd. You’ll recognise it when you hear it. It’s the one filled with love and compassion, calling you by your name. Then, like young Samuel, simply say:
“Speak, your servant is listening” (1 Sam. 3:10)
and like Samuel, follow the sound of His voice and He will lead you home.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psa. 23)