I can without a doubt claim that the best thing that has happened to me was meeting Jesus Christ. If you are a believer as well, I'm confident in your agreement that it's the best thing that could happen to any person!
Knowing that I have done nothing to earn my standing with God, but that I was chosen and pardoned by the blood of Christ brings about some serious joy.
Serious joy isn't a slang phrase or an exaggeration.
The idea of serious joy is of course joy, joy you get knowing you have been given a beautiful inheritance in Christ. However, this joy is focused on the fact that you are chosen by God among many who have not been. There is a seriousness that outlines our joy (or at least there should be), a brokenness for the lost. I will confess that often times I choose not to acknowledge the seriousness of scriptures about it because it isn't always fun to think about. However, it is a real concept and it's borderline foolishness to avoid it .
Romans 9 unpacks the idea of unconditional election very nicely. I encourage you to go read this whole chapter (book, actually), but here are some highlights:
verse 6-7 - "Not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but 'Through Isaac your offspring shall be named.'"
In other words, just being born of the flesh in the chosen family line was not enough to belong to the family of God.
In verse 13, Paul recalls the words of the Lord in Malachi 1: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated". He continues on in verse 14 with his trademark writing style to question, "Is there injustice on God"s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." This verse so clearly points to God's sovereignty and authority! We can see this again in verse 18: "So then he has mercy on whomever he wills and he hardens whomever he wills."
Let me digress here to share a testimony of how the Lord softened my heart and helped me to understand his sovereign nature. It wasn't until two years after becoming a Christian that a friend introduced the idea to me. I was immediately against it! How could God choose people to save? That would have to mean that he was also choosing people to not save...to go to hell. I was disgusted by this theology because God was supposed to be loving. In my eyes at the time, people had to be able to choose whether or not to follow! We had free will - it says so in the bible! I was against Calvinism and the seeming arrogance that followed it.
Over the years, my gracious Lord has revealed his nature to me in little bits. I have slowly but surely come to understand and proclaim His sovereignty over all things. If one believes he is not sovereign, then he implies that something else holds that power. And if one believes that God does not choose to save certain people, then he implies that man does something of his own accord to earn that salvation. And then, he is not really of true Christian belief! Ephesians 2:8-9 is one of many places in scripture that crushes the idea that we make the first move towards knowing the Lord: "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."
You must either believe that the Lord is sovereign and has authority over all things (particularly who is saved and who isn't, for the sake of this blog post), or you believe man chooses and the Lord does not give the gift of salvation according to his good pleasure.
I may have many of you reading this right now who are confused and possibly even annoyed at these claims. You may be questioning, "How can man have free will but still be completely under the authority of a sovereign God?" I was, and still am blown away at this question. This is the mystery of God! We are not called to fully understand, for the Lord does not exist within the confines of our limited minds. We are called to search, to trust, and to believe. We should be curious with reverence, but we are most certainly not to question God's work as if he is not right to do what he does. Look at Romans 9:19-23 very carefully with me:
"You will say to me then, 'Why does He still find fault? For who can resist his will?' But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, 'Why have you made me like this?' Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory [?]"
I always love to say that we would never appreciate sunshine without rainstorms, and vice versa. If it is always sunny, we may not even know that sunshine is good because we'd have no bad weather to compare it to. The ideas of good and bad are relative to one another!
The fact that the Lord creates some "vessels for wrath" and some for mercy is of the same concept. If all were saved by God and allowed into heaven, would the Lord's authority and sovereignty be known by man? We'd have nothing with which to compare the good gift of eternal life. We would not appreciate or see God's glory if it weren't for the contrast. Therefore, God has elected some for the sake of that contrast being seen. God desires to bring himself all glory, and He will do it in this way by His good pleasure.
So, back to the idea of serious joy. We are commanded to be joyful in God and delight in His work, but not to abandon the reality that we live in a broken world full of lost souls. The danger in the idea of election is this very human thought: "God will do the work. I am saved by grace alone, and it doesn't matter if I don't share His gospel with the world because he is sovereign and He will execute His plan no matter what I do." This thought is partly true: we are saved by grace alone, and nothing we do will change or thwart God's plan. However, we've been very explicitly called to do the work alongside Him. It is an honor that the Lord would choose us who are so unworthy to be saved and THEN to complete his work for Him with His help. This is serious, reader. We are disobedient to be passive in sharing the gospel (Matthew 28:16-20). Though election by God is real, not once are the saints called to judge who is elect and who is not. We've been called to preach the gospel and pray for the lost, then trust the Lord to do His work.
I am quite disobedient in this respect. I'd like to blame it on concern for being socially awkward, or losing friendships, or just even not feeling well at times. But in reality the disobedience roots from a lack of reverence for God. That seems harsh, but it is true. If I consistently revered the Lord for who He is (Colossians 1:15-20) my concern wouldn't be with my own feelings or the environment I was in. I would act out of reverence for the eternal God of the universe! For in light of eternity, it just won't matter how you felt. It will matter what the Lord did, and we have been given the beautiful opportunity to share in the work of God. How foolish I have been to repeatedly turn it down!
If you know Christ, I pray this has brought you some serious joy. I pray you looked up the verses for yourself, instead of taking my word for it. I pray any praise or glory will only be given to the Lord. And if you disagree, let's sharpen one another with gracious and loving discussion.
If you don't know Christ, I am blessed that you read this whole thing. I urge you even moreso to read God's word for yourself and I pray that you might know Him! I pray that you would seek out conversation with Christians you know, or even myself.
For the glory of God alone,