On The Call

John David Clark, Sr. - September, 1988

I have learned to be very suspicious of religious phrases which, though frequently used, are not found in the Bible. What I have found is that if God didn't say it, there is usually good reason for it not being said. One such example is "joining the Church." There is no such phrase found in the Bible, and for good reason. The Church cannot be joined. The only way into the Church is to be baptized into it by the holy Ghost (Rom. 6:3; 1Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27). There are many other examples, but the particular phrase we will consider now is the oft-heard phrase, "called to preach." This phrase is never found in the Scriptures, and again, for good reason.

In every Biblical instance of someone being called by Jesus, the called person was told exactly what to do, and in every case the instruction was the same: follow Jesus and learn of him. Later, from among those whom Jesus had called, from among those who had followed him and learned from him and had witnessed his power, Jesus chose some whom he SENT to preach. It is this being sent that is woefully absent in the Church in our generation. Virtually every person who stands in a pulpit in our time speaks only of being "called to preach". Their own testimonies show that they have not experienced being sent by Christ. Try to remember; have you ever heard a Christian minister testify of the day that Jesus sent him to minister to the Church and ordained him to preach the gospel. Such testimonies are extremely rare, and the Church is suffering terribly because the ministers they trust have been ordained by Christianity, not by Christ.

The call of Jesus is never a call to authority; it is always and only a call to surrender. It is never a call to teach; it is always and only a call to learn. The call is a door, a ticket for admission into the counsel of God. It is a sacred, though horribly misunderstood, honor. Those who feel the call of Jesus should accept no religious responsibilities, nor take any positions offered them by Christians. God’s call is a call to learn of Jesus. It is a call to be separated, to be still. It is a call to prayer, to study of the Scriptures (not commentaries!). It is a call to repentance. It is not a call to preach repentance to others. The call of Jesus is not a call to speak. It is, if you'll forgive my bluntness, a call to be silent.

Young man, if you are in Christianity, and if you have felt a call from God, I already know what has happened to you. You have been told that God wants to use you. Your pastor or some other respected elder has asked you to teach a Sunday School class, or someone else you trust has suggested you preach in a rest home, or be a deacon, or you've been offered a seat on the board of trustees, or you've been flattered by an unexpected nomination to some other seat of responsibility, or you've decided to have a home visitation ministry, or a prison ministry. And the result of all this is almost always that instead of setting aside more time for Jesus, those who are called find less time for him. It isn’t God, young man, who is using you for His glory; it is Christians using you for theirs.

Instead of learning from Jesus, young people who are called by God are often asked by Christian leaders to teach. And since they have not learned from Jesus, what will they teach? What else? They'll teach whatever the leaders of their Christian sect tells them to teach, of course. What else will they know? They'll teach whatever is given them to teach by those who sent them into the work. And don't think for one minute that Satan is ever surprised to see the slow spiritual death that follows. He is the instigator of religious diversions.

The call of Jesus is a call to Jesus. I cannot tell you how many young lives have been marred when Jesus called them because instead of separating themselves to him, they took on responsibilities for some Christian sect. The one greatest enemy of the righteousness of God on earth that I see today is Christianity, with its traditions which really do (as Jesus said), "Make of none effect the word of God." Christians, in ignorance of the truth, load those who are called by God with heavy burdens of responsibility and tell them that if they truly love Jesus then they will bear those burdens. Few young men ever escape the net of Christianity to learn from Jesus himself. Such a disaster could easily have happened to me.

As a teenager I felt the call of God. I became greatly interested in the things of God, and I found that it brought me joy to read the Bible, although I didn't understand it. Sometimes, I would leave school early to get alone and pray. Once, when I went to a nearby Christian church to pray, the pastor found me kneeling at the "altar" that afternoon and we had a "heavy" discussion about the things of the Lord. Not long after that, I found myself in the pulpit delivering a sermon and conducting a Wednesday night service. Then I was pounding the streets, knocking on people's doors, evangelizing the neighborhood, teaching a Sunday School class–and losing contact with Jesus. I had been called by Jesus but sent by Christianity. The responsibilities given to me robbed me of that which God’s calling most required: my time. I heard the voice of Jesus and wanted to follow it, but well-meaning Christians, people I loved (and still do), directed me down the wrong road.

In my case, as in many others, the result was that my heart became dull of hearing the gentle voice of God. I quickly developed a reputation as a young man with zeal and ability. I became a "somebody" in Christianity instead of making myself, like Jesus, a man of no reputation. The call of God grew fainter, and I slowly died to the things of God. For four years the song-writer's words applied to me:

"A pilgrim was I and a-wandering.
In the cold night of sin I did roam.
‘Til Jesus the kind shepherd found me,
And now I am on the way home.

It is with tears that I write those words. I am so grateful for God’s mercy to call me back home again.

This time when God called, I listened intently for his voice and was blessed to worship with saints who truly knew God. The first time God had called, I followed the voices and examples of friends my age; I liked having a lot of friends. This time, though, I was desperate. Friends or no friends, I knew I needed to know God and I humbled myself to listen to my father, George Clark, who knew the anointing of God and taught me to wait on Him, to learn of Him, to trust Him, and to let Jesus decide if and how I would ever be used in his service. While I waited I "studied to show myself approved unto God" (2Tim. 2:15). I "obeyed them that had the rule" over me and submitted myself (Heb. 13:17). I had submitted myself to elders the first time God called, and it nearly cost me my soul. The difference now was that this time those who had the rule over me knew the truth and did not hinder, but forwarded, the work of God in my heart. They didn't use up my time with religious busy-work but gave me time to hear from God. And hear, at last, I did.

My father, George Clark, was the most helpful person in the Spirit I ever knew. He was instrumental in "setting up" the first visitation of God I experienced. And he did it by connecting me to Jesus. In time, I learned an awesome lesson; it is the one I am trying to communicate now. Young man, Jesus is the one who called you. Go to him. Do not be afraid. He is waiting for you.

In the summer of 1975 my father was led by God to ask me a question which I could not answer. God then led him to leave me alone with Him. My only recourse was to prayerfully go to the Scriptures, which I did with great intensity. I did not know, and don't think even my father knew, that at this point Jesus himself would take over my spiritual education and begin the process that would make me a teacher in the kingdom of God. I have since written the substance of what Jesus taught me that summer day (you can read about it in The Pioneer Tract Society’s free gospel tract, "Taking the Name of the Lord"), but for now let me simply describe the way it felt to be taught by Jesus himself.

I pursued the answer to my father’s question by diligently, intensely searching the Scriptures. When I arrived at the place in the Bible where God wanted me to be, suddenly and quite unexpectedly there exploded within my soul words from the holy Ghost which gave me a profound insight into what I was reading. It was an overwhelming, almost physical experience. It was if I had lived my life in the depths of a dark cave, and now, suddenly, a thousand bright lights were turned on. Stunned, I could not sit at my desk any longer. I arose and walked slowly through the house in a daze, in awe at the reality and power of what I had just experienced. I had truly been spoken to by the one who said, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." I can tell you as one who knows, there is no voice like his. As the officers admitted when they returned empty-handed to the ones who had sent them to arrest Jesus, "Never a man spake like this man." I returned to my Bible and read again the verse through which Jesus had caused me to hear his voice, and silently chuckled at what I had once thought it meant. So blind, so foolish I had been. I felt that the Bible had become a new book and that I needed to read it all again. Oh, how exciting it still is when I think on it! The truth is so simple! So much easier to believe than a lie. And so very much easier to explain!

At a meeting of the Church, I told them what Jesus had revealed to me, and they rejoiced with me and for me. How encouraging that was! What if the truth which Jesus taught me had contradicted some long-held and much-revered doctrine of theirs? What if they, whom I trusted, had warned me never to listen to that voice again? But they didn't. They recognized, even better than I did, what was happening to me and were thrilled. They didn't undermine the work of God in order to maintain a tradition. Their prayers for me had been answered, and I had heard from Jesus. Since then, I have learned that when God does a thing, everyone rejoices who truly loves and knows Him.

At the time, I thought I had "arrived". Having never experienced a direct communication from God like that before, I thought I was now ready to "go into all the world and preach". Oh, how Jesus must have smiled and shook his head at me! I didn't know that the stunning experience to which my spiritually wise father had led me would be repeated again and again, months apart, so that I could anchor myself in each truth he would reveal. This first revelation Jesus gave me seemed to my childish mind to be so great that at first I couldn't imagine how there could be any more revelation to receive. In time, however, I have come to understand that "His understanding is infinite. And His ways are past finding out." He has more to teach us than we are even able to learn.

This is the tragedy of the religious system which goes by the name Christianity, but in fact is anti-Christ in its very nature. When the symptoms of the call of God begin to appear in the life of young men within Christianity’s walls, responsibilities of every kind are heaped upon them like medicine for a very sick man. And usually the medicine "cures" the patient of his burning desire for the true knowledge of Christ. May God be merciful to us and rescue us from the churches men have made. May God raise up for His people young men who will be pastors after His heart, and prophets, and healers, and teachers, and evangelists, who not only have felt a call from God but have been sent by God.

My friend, the only hope of the Church is that Jesus be its head, and to be its head, he must be in control of the lives the ministers of the Church. He must be the source of their doctrine and their works. Oh! that God will deliver His people from both Christian ministers and their own opinions, so that they will stop partaking of the system that is ruining the hopes and misdirecting the efforts of young people who want to serve Jesus!

Some of you have written me to ask the Church here to help you pray, because you feel a call from the Lord. We do most sincerely pray for you, to do what God is calling you to do; which is, to follow after the One who called you. If you do that, then the One who is calling you will in due time decide whether or not to use you, to send you, to serve His people–and it is worth the wait. My advice to you is not to take on any responsibility that you are asked to take. On the contrary, if Jesus has called you, get rid of all the responsibilities you can, so that you can have more time to listen to him and learn of him. When Jesus called Peter and Andrew they "forsook their nets, and followed Jesus." James and John "left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him." Matthew walked away from his money table. Mary left the cooking to the complaining Martha, whom Jesus did not condemn, but told her that Mary had chosen a better thing and that it would not be taken away from her. Look at the evidence! None of the disciples were called to preach! They were all called to sit down and listen to Jesus. And because this one simple truth concerning the call of God is hidden today, virtually every pulpit in Christendom is occupied by men whom the young prophet Jeremiah (chapter 23) described: "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: for they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord. I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied." Young man, be warned: Christianity will turn you into the kind of man God despises. It will use your love for God to drive the love of God out of others’ hearts.

And like Jeremiah, the ones who see the horrible condition of the Church can only grieve for the blindness of pastors who once were truly "called of God, as was Aaron," but are consecrated to the ministry by men and are now perpetuating the error of Christianity to the destruction of those who hear them. "Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets!" lamented Jeremiah. And when in our time I see the call of God smothered out of young men as they follow the examples and instructions given to them by Christians, I think I feel something of what Jeremiah felt.

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