(1 Corinthians 7:17-24)
What changes when you are called to the Lord? Or what is it that SHOULD change when the Lord calls a person to Himself to become a Christian?
There are many different thoughts and ideas on this matter and some people presume or even expect that there will be a huge change in their lives. But there does not have to be or need to be a lot of change in how you live or where you live.
Certainly there will be some changes but not as many as people may think. This particular section of scripture shows us that the amount of change is not necessarily as great as people might presume, and it is worth considering because knowing it can relieve a lot of pressure on you as a Christian.
What Doesn't Change?
This section of scripture tells us that in the matter of our lives and how we live day to day there is not necessarily much need for change. Most people will not have to drastically alter the way they live, and in fact it may be detrimental to them if they do make sweeping changes. Note what the section says here.
17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. 18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. 20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God. – (1 Corinthians 7:17-24)
The verses that jump out at me in this section are verses 17, 20 & 24.
Verse 17 tells us to lead the life that God has assigned to us. We are to follow whatever assignments He has made for us in our lives. And He will not make wide sweeping and drastic changes in the conditions of a person's life if they cannot handle them. God will not pile a person with many burdens and things to do because He is seeking us to come to Him. Jesus pointed this out when He said,
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – (Matthew 11:28-30)
The Lord does not weigh us down with burdens. He is not a hard taskmaster, cracking a whip to get us to move along His path. He has called us to find rest from the evil and wicked ways of this world.
For most people this will not involve a great shift in whatever they do on a day to day basis, unless they were living in some kind of sinfulness or an addictive lifestyle when they were called.
A person who was a thief, robber, prostitute, adulterer, homosexual or a drunkard, drug addict, gambler and so on would need to change their lifestyle as they come to Christ for they would be moving away from lives of sin and addictions to a life of freedom. And these people will find a blessing in making such changes because they will find release from their sins in Christ and will find peace as they walk with Him.
Verse 20 & 21 speak to this issue where it talks about a person who is a slave or a bond servant when called to Christ. There are many forms of slavery in existence today that in some ways are worse than what we traditionally recognise as slavery. People who are addicted to any kind of substance and abuse their bodies are enslaved. People who are focussed on pornography or sex are slaves to their own lusts and desires. All of these and many other things are slavery of one form or another. Thus Paul says that if you can gain your freedom from these slaveries then take the opportunity and be set free in Jesus Christ. In such a case it may be necessary for the sake of your life to make the changes and be set free.
But for most people who work at regular jobs and who are not under any form of substance abuse there will not need to be much change in their day to day lives.
You don't need to go out and evangelise the whole world. You don't need to go out door knocking to spread the message of the gospel if that is not something you can do. You don't need to make sweeping changes in how you live for the most part, except as it serves to set you free from sin and help you find the kingdom of God.
And so for most people Paul adds the one stipulation in verse 24 where he says,
“So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.”
Don't go making huge changes in your life after you are called apart from this one thing. Remain in the place you are WITH GOD. That is the key to coming to the Lord, to remain where you are, subject to the issues mentioned above, but following Jesus Christ and the ways of God that lead to salvation. This is what is important.
Now, there is certainly a need for some aspects of your life to change when you come to the Lord. It is the spiritual aspects of your life that must change.
You have been called to serve the Lord and to be doing the work of God. But what does that mean and what is the work of God? Jesus tells us what the work of God is in this following verse.
28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” – (John 6:28-29)
So if a person is to be doing the work of God they are to live a life based upon faith in Jesus Christ. They are to believe in Christ and so follow the plan of God that leads to salvation. This is the works of God: Faith.
And following on from that, what does it mean to serve the Lord? How do we serve the Lord?
Again Jesus tells us the answer to this question, which He explains in many places throughout the New Testament. He best explains how we serve Him perhaps in this following verse.
34 Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' 40 And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' – (Matthew 25:34-40)
Note the last verse in this section which shows that when we provide service or support, helping our neighbour when they have any kind of a need, that is when we are serving the Lord. We serve Him by being of service to His people. It is through this service to His people that we show them the love of God and that we walk in His love for His people.
So the things that do change are spiritual in that we change how we think, shunning what is evil and seeking what is right in the sight of God, and as an extension of our new thinking we change how we act and behave, doing good towards our fellow man and not seeking selfish gain or doing evil.
These are significant changes in WHO we are but there is not necessarily much change in our daily situation necessary to effect these changes.
God and Jesus Christ are interested in our spiritual lives. We are called to change from within but may not need to change much on the outside. As Jesus counselled the Pharisees, so too we must learn the same lessons,
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. – (Matthew 23:25-26)
The Pharisees made a great show of looking good on the outside. They said what sounded like the right things, dressed like holy men and so forth, but they did not do what they said and were full of lies and iniquity, thus Jesus called them hypocrites for they did not practice what they preached.
What Jesus showed here is that the first priority was to change the inside. It is most important to be changed in your heart and mind. We need to repent and seek the Lord, learning His ways and how to think, act and behave in a manner that please God.
These are changes that must come from within us, that is, to “clean the inside of the cup” rather than putting on a good show on the outside that does not reflect who we are on the inside. And just like the Pharisees, a hypocrite will soon be seen for the lies that they are perpetrating when their actions do not match their words.
So the initial focus for all Christians is to seek the internal changes and not be carried away by external things. For the most part stay where you are and in the life you are leading while you learn what is good, right and true, and while the Lord leads you where He wants you to be. This is what is important. Get your own life with Christ sorted out first before going out to try and save the world because that may not even be the path Jesus has set for you. But He has set a path for all of us to find Him and find the truth first. Anything else He wants us to do or leads us to do is just an added blessing as we follow His ways.
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