Ephesians 1:4-5: “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”
This passage came up Monday night in a new study that just began across all Eagle Brook campuses. There must have been hundreds of people at the Anoka location alone. At our table, the topic of predestination came up. Since I am still a relatively early learner—and since I hadn’t yet read the note in our handouts warning us not to get into a theological debate over this controversial topic—I couldn’t help but ask the question:
If God chooses certain people in advance, does that mean He purposefully leaves others off His list?
Why would He do that? Why would He choose me, knowing all of the baggage I’d be carrying after 40+ years of going my own way? Was it only because I was curious (and broken) enough to buy that first Bible and eventually to become a seeker? Or did I develop that curiosity and need for Him because He chose me before the world began? And most importantly, who would this all-knowing, all-loving God not choose?
I don’t get it, and I couldn’t let it go.
Not even as Merle tried to redirect the discussion back to the questions posed in our booklet, not as Susan tried to answer in terms of “the mystery” of God’s will. I’m curious, after all, not easily redirected when something’s bugging me, and honestly, I hate the “It’s a mystery” answer. But with all respect to Susan, my eye-rolling has more to do with my own religious upbringing that it does with the truth of the mystery. “It’s a mystery” was the standard response I received from family, nuns and priests to the many questions I had over many years on matters of faith and the beliefs of the church in which I was raised.
So this morning, still unable to let it go, I started searching for better answers to the question of whether God pre-chooses certain people for salvation. The most understandable one I found was on a site called Never Thirsty in response to a question similar to mine:
Am I saved because God chose me, or because I choose to believe?
The answer is yes. We choose, and God has already chosen.
That same Internet article told Dr. Harry Ironside’s story about the man who told of …how God had sought him and found him, how God had loved him, called him, saved him, delivered him, cleaned him up, and healed him….
After the meeting, one Christian took him aside and said, “You know, I appreciate all that you said about what God did for you, but you did not mention anything about your part in it. Salvation is really part us and part God, and you should have mentioned something about your part.”
“Oh, the man replied, “I apologize. I am sorry. I really should have mentioned that my part was running away, and God’s part was running after me until I found Him.”
We choose God. But He chose us first. And He’ll pursue us to the end.
Father, Susan and my mom were right: Some of Your ways and Your reasoning are beyond the scope of what we humans were meant to understand. And as J.D. Greear said last night in that study on the Book of Ephesians, it’s pure arrogance to sit around arguing theology. Instead, I just thank You for loving us first, and I pray straight out of Ephesians Paul’s own prayer for spiritual growth. I pray it over my children and grandchildren, extended family and dearest friends, and for every one who is seeking….
When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.