Down through history, God has called people to be holy – to be set apart for a unique and peculiar good work. Over time culture views them as heroes. I’m confident that most of us would be able to name one or two people who we could identify as heroes who had this calling. Names like Mother Teresa, George Washington, William Wilberforce, Harriet Tubman, and Martin Luther King Jr. are just some who quickly come to my mind. These men and women have done something special to set things right in a world gone wrong.
Called to be holy: the tension
But rarely do we identify ourselves as those people God would call. Businessmen or women typically don’t make our list, not to mention plain old common folk. We tend to agree with the “holy hierarchy”. It’s this concept that certain people have been called to a work that is more worthy in God’s eyes than other work. At the top of this hierarchy would be folks like pastor/bishop, overseas missionary, full-time Christian worker, elder, deacon, etc. At the bottom of the list, we would assume there would be common ordinary folks like you and me, including those who are in business.
In our minds, it’s much easier to grasp that special people have been raised up to do these unique holy works. And with that comes the thought that most folks are just ordinary and common. But it is my belief that God calls all people to be holy – set apart for a particular and peculiar work. None of us are ordinary, nor common.
The Pending Great Collision
Life is hard. Our default is to discover the easiest way to avoid as much hardship as possible – shouldering only what is inevitable, unavoidable. Answering a call by God to be holy seems overwhelming. We assume it would be exceedingly difficult
The great collision is simply this – the path that we choose for ourselves comes face to face with the call that God places on our lives. God is the creator of all mankind. God created each of us unique – he describes us as fearfully and wonderfully made and that he knows us full well. As a craftsman, we should appreciate when God sees people pursuing something that is not what they were created to do and He calls to them to be what He created them to be.
When we take God’s call upon our lives to be holy seriously, we are faced with this great collision. It is a very humbling thing. The impending call to be set apart for this particular good work means everything is about to change. We begin to wrestle with all that we have been pursuing. Have we labored in vain? Motives are tested. Decisions we have made are challenged. New directions and destinations are placed in front of us that we aren’t sure are possible. Do we trust in God or do we lean on our own understanding?
I believe this tension is best described when we take these two verses from the Bible and put them side by side:
I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourself therefore, and be holy, for I am holy.
But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
Our choice to avoid God’s call
In our weaker moments, it’s much easier to listen to the naysayers. We each have this desire to water down God’s call and defer it to others or at least make it more palatable for ourselves. When we hear God’s call to be holy, our ears tend to tune in to other voices around us. It’s as if there are those who are heckling us from the stands, and we forget why we’re on the field, and even how we got into the game in the first place. It’s in those moments that we find ourselves beginning to make excuses like:
The bible isn’t relevant to the real issues I face today
Surely God has little concern about how I order my daily life
There is a sacred/secular divide and it’s necessary to keep them separate
The holy hierarchy of a minister being more holy than a milkmaid is real
The serf complex is essential – I exist to support the holy work of others called to “full-time Christian ministry”
When God gets all up in our business!
But here’s the point I believe God wants me to make, creating a business in its simplest form is serving others well to the point that they see great value in what you provide. I believe this requires people like you and me to be confronted with a holy God who calls us to be holy as He is holy. By God’s design we can learn how we are to set ourselves apart for that particular good work.
I pray you don’t roll your eyes and tune this message out. It’s human to doubt and wonder why a call to be holy has anything to do with us, let alone our business. But the further I lean into this idea that God’s laid on my heart over the last decade, this renaissance of man, the topic is foundational and essential to every business.
Surprised? – identifying with the holy
I would venture to say that the large majority of us don’t encounter too many holy things in our everyday world – if any at all. This is a sad reality of our times. If used at all in our vocabulary, Holy (fill in the blank) is mainly an expression of surprise. The reality of anyone actually being holy seems pretty strange to us. It’s stranger still if we find ourselves witness to something holy. But the pinnacle of strange is to have someone holy call us to be holy with them.
Holy is hard to wrap our heads around, difficult to understand, as if it doesn’t fit with any of the puzzle pieces that we have. Yet there is this consistent theme of God calling people to be holy that runs throughout the biblical narrative. Any honest reader of the Scriptures has to grapple with this call placed upon all our lives – be holy for I am holy.
Called into the Master’s workshop…
By way of illustration, I want you to see God as a Master Craftsman. He has a workshop, and in that workshop, he continues to create by design. He is creating with intention, purpose, and love, and He calls us the objects of His affection.
So here we stand outside the door of the Master Craftsman’s workshop. There is a sign over the door which reads, “Holy unto the Lord – Enter into my rest”. The door is open and the sights, sounds, and smells alert our senses that what is happening from within is surely a good thing. If we enter in to see first hand what is going on it is with fear and trembling. We enter in as an apprentice because we want to learn His ways. And what we find is both completely inspiring and totally humbling.
The more time we spend there in His workshop that sign over the door takes on greater significance. We find ourselves agreeing that our lives are holy unto the Lord. We are His people, and in His workshop we find rest.
When we confess, we’re not worthy…
At first, we try to convince ourselves that we don’t belong here. Yet the longer we stay The Craftsman’s work reveals things about ourselves we never could believe. Yet they deeply comfort our souls. We find our true worth when we are there. Yet like Peter in that boat, when we see what is happening, we too confess… “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”
But consider these same men who years later would pen words like:
“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God”
“Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, to those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ”
“Simeon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Set apart for good works: “I am what you say I am.”
These are examples of apprentices who had identified themselves as ordinary folks. But now they were called out and set apart for good works. How did that happen? And does it still happen today?
[Consider reading the story of Luke 5:1-11, and asking what implications it has for business]
When we encounter greatness, we are inspired to pursue greatness ourselves – regardless of how quickly we put it out of our minds. Early on when Peter found himself in the Lord’s workshop, he sought to put it out of his mind quickly too. Years later, when he wrote letters to others who found themselves in the Master Craftsman’s workshop, he doesn’t even sound like the same person.
“preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'”
Peter was inspired to walk through the door into the Master Craftsman’s workshop. He couldn’t begin to even fathom the implications of words written on the sign overhead. Yet he entered anyways – leaving everything else he knew behind. In time he became convinced of the Lord’s renaissance in his life.
This is business 101 – the Lord calls us all to be holy. We are set apart for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. It is normal for us to believe we should reject this call. When we experience that “great collision” in our own lives, we all quickly confess, “Depart from me, Lord”.
Call to Action…
Now is the time to be bold and courageous. We often find words like these spoken by God to people he has called. The Lord knows us better than we will ever know ourselves. His words can be trusted, and we can accept His words as the truth that will purify our souls. He declares, “Child you are mine! I formed you. I have a purpose and a plan for which I created you. Trust in me. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge me and I will make your paths straight.” It is our call to be holy and learn how we can love and serve others in business.
“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God… And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”