“even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world,
that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love”
When I was a kid, the Catholic priest of my parish talked about God’s calling. He told of how the apostles dropped everything they had when Jesus walked by and told them to follow him. The priest was speaking from the perspective of being called to the priesthood. I tell you, this absolutely terrified me because I didn’t want to be a priest, no way, no how! I couldn’t think of anything creepier than having to wear all those awful robes and do the same mass over and over, every day until the day that I die. I would hope against all hope that God would never pick me for such a thing. Never mind that the priest said that God would cause you to like it. I didn’t believe a word that guy said. Why? My mother used to tell of how the Catholic church in her day used to require large families to send one boy to become a priest and one girl a nun. Can you imagine something like that?
As time went on, I felt that either God had never intended to select me or that I had talked him out of it. However, I did have a couple encounters in which I was positive he was calling me – to something. This wasn’t for a church position; it was for something different. Both out of fear and distraction, I turned him down. Then, finally, in 2007 I submitted.
I learned from the Evangelicals that making a decision to accept Christ is the one thing you do for salvation, the most important decision of your life. However, I couldn’t but help remember how it seemed as if God had cornered me when I finally did give in that one day in June. Shoot, I had weighed the pros and cons of Jesus countless times and decided it was all phooey, so I knew that there was more to it than simply my rationale that changed everything. Indeed, I did make a decision, and the results were instant and incredibly drastic, but I was never so sure that it was a willful decision rather than a submission. Kind of like an unconditional surrender in times of war. You could call that a decision if you want, but it isn’t. The victor forced it.
I’m not saying this was a bad thing. Not at all! In fact, I am so, so grateful that it happened. Imagine trying to reason with a toddler who is pitching a gigantic fit only to be forcibly put in a highchair with goodies on it. The mood instantly changes, doesn’t it? Whatever that rationale that little kid had for being angry was suddenly gone once s/he realized the situation was different. That’s exactly what happened to me. I was that toddler pitching a fit – for 44 years!
Then I would read verses like Ephesians 1:4 (above) and lots of others like it. They spoke of decision for our salvation, but it was of God making it before we were ever created. Yes, some say that this idea speaks that God made a general decision to save people before he ever created the world. That’s true. But, he also speaks of choosing you and me, individually, as well. Let’s look at a few examples.
Paul. His conversion was very sudden and very dramatic. Paul spoke of repentance and verbal confession in Romans 10, but we don’t hear of Paul speaking of this action BEFORE his conversion. In fact, we have no indication whatsoever that he was having any second thoughts about his murderous actions against those who followed Jesus. In fact, he speaks of being dead in sin at conversion (Eph. 2:5 and Col. 2:13). It is also well established throughout the bible that faith in Jesus is the requirement of salvation. However, Paul teaches us that faith is a gift, not something we do ourselves (Eph. 2:8).
Moses. Here we see a man who was a fugitive for murder who was minding his own business, watching sheep with his father-in-law, when all of a sudden, he saw something that he had never seen before: a burning bush that wasn’t being consumed by fire. Through this fire, God identified himself and gave Moses his assignment. Like Paul, there is no record of consideration beforehand of true repentance or confession of faith.
Jeremiah. Here we have a well-known verse. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5). That’s pretty self-explanatory if you ask me.
It seems to me that God has decided what he’s going to do, and that is what happens. Isn’t the bible full of fulfilled prophecies? Of course, it is. God not only knows the future but has the ability to do as he desires.
Isaiah 55:11 so shall my words be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Now we see one example of what would seem a saved man who was bent on disobeying the Lord. There are others who don’t seemed saved yet do exactly what the Lord purposes – sometimes for good, and sometimes for calamity.
Jonah. God spoke directly to Jonah to turn Nineveh from their evil ways. Jonah refused, but God had a great fish gobble him up and personally deliver him to his destination. Here’s an example of the toddler who remained mad while he ate his cookie.
Neco, King of Egypt. Here we see a man who thinks HE’S god who obeyed a command of the true God. In fact, it cost King Josiah his life when he tried to stop Neco from his task. “’What have we to do with each other, king of Judah? I am not coming against you this day, but against the house with which I am at war. And God has commanded me to hurry. Cease opposing God, who is with me, lest he destroy you.” (2 Chronicles 35:21). Josiah was one of the few good kings of Judah.
Judas. This guy was specifically prophesied to betray Jesus. See Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 26:14-15, 27:3, 9-10. Jesus acknowledged this: “and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” (John 17:12b)
Finally, we have one group:
The Twelve (Eleven) Disciples. Jesus was clear about the calling. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you…” (John 15:16)
What does this all mean? How does this apply to my life today? Know this friend, that if you indeed are born-again, it is because God personally plucked you out of your sin and gave you eternal life. On one hand, you are nothing special in that you did nothing to cause your salvation. Your deeds have already condemned you. In fact, they still do. However, God has decided to have mercy and compassion on you – for no other reason than he picked you.
Rejoice in this, my friends! Sing it from the rooftops and proclaim it in the streets! Your God is merciful beyond imagination! Encourage others to see this! Warn them about the dangers if they don’t. There is nothing more important than this message – on one hand light, the other darkness. On one hand eternal life, the other eternal damnation. We don’t know whom God will have mercy, but we are commanded to proclaim the gospel. Do so with the knowledge that you are not of this world, that Jesus will return, and that you will spend eternity with our Father. You have nothing to fear!
These are good days, my friends!
Thank you, Father!
Copyright © 2019 Scott Powers