By pretty much all accounts, I’m an incredible guy. Sure I mess up a bit from time to time and do some retardedly stupid things, but all in all, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better me than me.
And it’s not so surprising that God would welcome me into his family. I mean, if I was God, I’d probably create the whole world just for me, and I’d probably have a family just so I could be in it.
Hmm, even I can’t carry on this charade for too long. These days, quite frankly, I wonder why God spends much time worrying about me at all. Honestly, if I were God, I’d probably wipe this world away just so I wouldn’t have to listen to my whining any more.
So I’ve gotta wonder every once in a while… Why did he even bother? Why create me just so I can reject Him? Why die for me just so I could go on sinning? Why has he given me more than any man could ever deserve just to watch me turn his beautiful gifts into ugly trash?
What could I have possibly done that he found me worth saving? And is there something I can do that would make him regret that decision? I mean, if I don’t know what I did, how will I know what not to do?
What did I do that he should save me?
Paul says in his letter to the Romans, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I am certainly a sinner. I certainly deserve death, and probably even worse than that. I certainly don’t deserve this free gift of eternal life. But I suppose that’s why it had to be a gift.
I can pretend that I’m an Aggie because of my own efforts and abilities. I can pretend that I’m a Texan because I was born in the right place at the right time. But the gift of God isn’t about me, about what I can do. It’s not even about being lucky and finding God in a good mood.
The only thing I’ve done in this little equation is sin, the only thing I’ve earned is death. God has done everything else. It’s his gift, it’s his son, it’s his death and his resurrection. It’s his choice not mine.
God chose me? When? Why?
Paul said to the Ephesians
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory.
Alright, the why is pretty easy, for the praise of his glory, though I gotta tell you, if I were God, I’m fairly confident I could come up with a better way to glorify myself than creating a bunch of people who spend all their time denying my power and sometimes even my existence. But hey, a God’s gotta do what a God’s gotta do.
But this when thing is really freaking me out… “he chose us in him before the creation of the world.” I suppose, to be fair, it’s not so terribly surprising that the God who created the world knows every intricate detail of that world. And seeing as how he created time, it makes sense that he knows every intricate detail of time too. So it’s not news to him that I’m in the family.
And now that I think about it, this whole predestination thing isn’t so scary. I think I like the fact that God chose me at the beginning of time to receive this free gift. I didn’t earn it, I wasn’t in the right place at the right time, and because of that, I can’t unearn it, I can’t find a wrong place or a wrong time that will make me unworthy. I’m not worthy on my own, whatever worth I have is mine because it too is a gift given through the blood of the Son. He made me worthy through Christ’s sacrifice, and nothing can remove that worth from me.
Not by accident. Not by mistake. But if I reject the gift, if I willingly deny Christ’s sacrifice, if I reject the forgiveness and continue to pursue control of my life and the little world I call my own… if I do this, he will not force me to take his free gift. It is a gift, it is offered not forced upon me.
So if I am a child of God, it is because I have been chosen by him at the creation of the earth, not by any fault of my own. If I reject Him, if I chase my own will and my own desires, if I flee from the loving arms of my father and run off in pursuit of independence and self-sufficiency, I condemn myself. If I claim I don’t need him, he will leave me to the result of that claim, a life without him, the hell of my own choosing.
This is so confusing though. I can only choose to reject? How is that even a choice?
If I hand you a gift, you can reject it if you don’t want it. But you can’t make me give you a gift, then it’s not a gift. So you can choose to reject a gift from me, but you can’t make me give it to you.
I can’t make God give me this free gift… Then how do I get it?
It’s already mine.
Now if you think that’s the confusing part, try this one on for size. How do I stop rejecting this gift, rejecting him? Rejecting God is the only thing I know how to do on my own. How do I stop doing the only thing I know to do?
Here’s the crazy part, if you’re looking to stop rejecting him, he’s already planted the seed of faith. If you believe that Christ’s death has redeemed you from your life of sin and has purchased for you this free gift of eternal life, then his Spirit has already been working within you to create this new child, his child.
When did it happen? I can’t help but laugh. When did I become a child of God? At the creation of the world. My friend, this whole predestination thing isn’t designed to give you a date in your life when you transitioned from a state of sin to a life rooted in him. For that matter, that’s not the right way to think of it anyway. I have never stopped rejecting God, it’s the only thing I can do on my own.
What has happened is that the creator of everything has created within me a new man, a man rooted in him, a man who has been released from the punishment of sin, the eternal separation from God, a man who is now being made holy, being purified by the Spirit to the praise of his glory. So he has created within me, a new me; within this sinner, he has created his child.
So what is predestination? At the beginning of time God planned that I would become his child. And his plan has come to pass.
But what of those who have not become his children? Did he choose at the beginning of time that they would reject him? What he has offered me, he has offered everyone. Those who reject it, those who reject him, do so of their own desire, not of his. He desires all men to be saved, but he will not force anyone into a relationship with him that they reject.
So Buddhists are going to hell? Buddhism reveals the need for a savior, for no amount of meditation or enlightenment can set you free from your suffering or your desires. Hinduism too shows the need for a savior, for in the end, there is no way to cleanse your karma, you are destined to the downward spiral.
Pick a religion, any of them. Pick a belief structure, a worldview, a discipline, it doesn’t matter. Chase them for as long as you want, and they will show you only one thing. You can’t make you better. You can’t make you lovable or beautiful. You can’t study enough, apply enough makeup, get enough surgery, meditate enough, pray enough, eat right enough… you can’t do anything enough to save you.
Jesus wasn’t just a good man. He wasn’t just a prophet. He is God. His death wasn’t just a really horrible thing. It’s a beautiful thing. He is the savior we have so desperately longed for.
And he’s not still dead. He is alive. And he has sent his spirit, that we might know the truth.
So does predestination deny free will? No, not at all. In fact, if God hadn’t chosen to save me, I wouldn’t really have any choices to make at all. Every action would be an expression of my rejection of God. But now, as his child, I have a choice to make. Do I follow him or try to wrestle control of my life away from him? And I have to make this decision every second of every day, with every thought, every action, every word out of my mouth, every breath I take. He has asked me to do everything to his glory. And he has given me his spirit to open my eyes to see the way to live to his glory… to love you.
Still confused about predestination? I can’t blame you, people with way more logical intuition than you and I put together have wrestled with the debate and haven’t produced any more of an understanding than we started with. But when it’s all said and done, I’m going to spend eternity with the God who loves me so much he’d die for me. That’s pretty cool.
And I’m going to spend it with him whether I can wrap my head around predestination or not. I don’t have to understand the mysteries of God to know them. And they don’t have to fit in the little box of my mind for them to be true.
Don’t think for even a moment that I’m claiming to understand how predestination works. But I am claiming to understand that God has gone to great lengths to give me confidence that I am his child because of what he has done, not because of what I have done. And he has done what he has done, he has sent his son to die for me to set me free from my life of sin, not because I was in the right place at the right time, not because I have done something to win his favor, but because he loves me. Unlovable me. Unworthy me. He has made me worthy. He has made me his child.
As I stare at myself through the tears of a creation which has worked its own destruction, of a painting which has torn itself to pieces, I know beyond all doubt that the creator is staring through tears of joy with a love which has worked my redemption, which has taken the tattered pieces of the tapestry of my life and woven them to defy explanation, that he alone would be glorified for the beauty of his creation. He has produced life where there was only death through his own Son’s death. And now this life can only declare the majesty of his mystery, the truth of his grace.
All praise to God, the Lord of all creation, the author and perfecter of our faith. To him alone be all glory, for he alone is God. Amen.
On a slightly (but not quite) different topic:
Is forgiveness a response to repentance, or is repentance a response to forgiveness.
Posted with : The Way