“Election Shapes Everything”

“even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world,” (Ephesians 1:4a, ESV)

In my younger years, I was very good at school. I was the teacher’s pet, always. I dotted my i’s and crossed my t’s, and I excelled in all things related to the English language. When it came to math, I could add, subtract and even divide. Math and I were buds…until high school. The basics of algebra, I was good with that. Even when they threw in letters with numbers, I survived for the most part, but my first day of geometry was the beginning of the end in my friendly relationship with math. I was no longer the teacher’s pet. In fact, it was the first class in which I received a failing grade. I felt betrayed. Why was this so impossible for me to wrap my pretty little head around? Someone tried to cheat off my paper in class. I laugh at the thought!

My point is that some things in life are hard to understand. Some things we may never fully understand, like how do algebra and geometry benefit my life? I never understood when I was ever going to use the principles of this level of math (I know all of you math people out there are coming up with all the ways the Pythagorean Theorem applies to everyday life.)

The election of God is a deep theological doctrine which has created many debates in Christian circles. However, in the middle of these theological discussions, we may miss the beauty and mystery that is God. Charles Spurgeon, the great theologian and preacher said that “election shapes everything.”

What does it mean that God “chose us”?

We all know what it means to be rejected, which is the opposite of chosen, but when we look up the word “chosen” in the dictionary it means, “selected or marked for favor or special privilege; one who is the object of choice or of divine favor.” In the Greek, choose or elect means “to select out of a highly deliberate choice with a definite outcome (as with the destination of divine selection for salvation).”

I love what the New Bible Dictionary has to say about election, or when God has “chose us”.  Election is “a gracious choice, an act of undeserved favor freely shown towards members of a fallen race to which God owed nothing but wrath.” Election is also “a sovereign choice prompted by God’s own good pleasure alone and not by any works of man.”

Sink down into the fact that, if you are a believer, you, a sinner, have been chosen by God in Jesus Christ. Sink further into the knowledge that not only have you been chosen, but you were deliberately chosen “before the foundation of the world.” Before God said, “Let there be light,” you were already chosen.

At the very end of Ephesians 1:4 it reveals the answer to the question, “Why did God choose me? In love.” In Deuteronomy 7:6-9, Moses explains to the Israelites why God chose them. It was not because of anything they had done or anything they possessed, “but it is because the Lord loves you.”

How should this shape my life?

This truth should capture our hearts for God, and in turn, should shape our entire lives. This verse in Ephesians and the ones that follow in the first three chapters of Ephesians sets up the last three chapters. This knowledge that God has chosen us in Christ out of His love for us, changes how we relate to God and others.

We respond to His love in our marriages, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord,” and “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” (Eph. 5:22,25). His love influences how we raise our kids, “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord,” (Eph. 6:4b). It helps those of us in the workplace, especially when our boss is maybe not the easiest person to work for, “obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ,” (Eph. 6:5). Obedience is the channel by which we express our love back to God.

What about when life is hard?

I believe, with the perspective of God’s sovereignty and election, that we can face trials and suffering with His grace and strength, “In all circumstances, take up the shield of faith,” (Eph. 6: 16). When we understand that God chose us out of His amazing love for us, then no matter what He allows into our lives, then we can trust it is for our good, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose,” (Romans 8:28).

I can speak personally from a place of experience with suffering. Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Living day in and day out with this disease has felt more like a curse at times. Just walking through the grocery store takes a lot of effort. But at the same time, it is a blessing because I know God is working this for good in my life. I have a deeper appreciation for the little things, things we take for granted, such as walking. I know I am in God’s hands, and so MS has no control over my future. God is in charge. He is a deliberate God with a definite plan, and He is good.

God made a choice.

If you are not a believer, then let me say to you that it is not an accident that you are reading this. God made a choice to send His one and only Son, Jesus, to die for your sins, the bad and the ugly. Jesus made a way for you to make your own choice. It was His plan all along. Will you choose to have faith in God?

Understanding God’s sovereign choice, His gracious choice boggles my mind. I cannot fully wrap my pretty little head around this truth because I know the things I have done. Why me? Why would God choose me? He knows everything about me, the bad and the ugly, and yet He chose me and had mercy on me, “to the praise of his glorious grace,” (Eph. 1:6). God looked at me, saw the payment for my sin on the cross made by His Son, Jesus, and forgave all my sin.

Charles Spurgeon said it so well, “But if God has chosen us then let our hearts love him, our lips extol him, our hands serve him, and our whole lives adore him.”
Election Shapes Everything

For Further Study and Meditation:

Read Ephesians 1; Deuteronomy 7:6-9; John 10:16; Acts 13:47,48; 2 Thessalonians 2:13,14; 1 Peter 2:9.

Questions to Consider:

  • How should this shape your life today and moving forward into the future?
  • Do you really believe that God is good especially when your life seems to be out of control or when you have been deeply wounded?

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,” (Eph. 1:3)

 

References
Wood, D. R., Marshall, I. H., Millard, A. R., Packer, J. I., & Wiseman, D. J. (1996). Election. In New Bible Dictionary (p. 308). Nottingham: InterVarsity Press.

 

You Can Smile at a Funeral

IMG_0042This past week I attended the funeral of my sweet Aunt Sue. She lived a good, long life of 88 years, married to my uncle for 69 of those years. She loved her family well, served the body of Christ and her community. She was a picture of grace, and as my cousin Shana put it, she was a true southern belle.

Funerals are typically and appropriately filled with sounds of tears. Grief and loss do not make friends with smiles and laughter. Life eventually meets up with death. However, as I looked around at my loved ones during the funeral, God gave me a fresh perspective. I heard His whisper to my heart, “You can smile at a funeral.” Why is that? Because for my sweet Aunt Sue, it is not the end.

It is easy for me to say this because honestly, she was not my mother or even my grandmother. However, I know what it’s like to lose a parent. Just four years ago, I lost my dad. There was not much smiling on my part during the initial shock of losing him, and definitely not during the funeral. I grieved. That is allowed, and it is understandable.

We can probably also agree that it is easier to smile at a funeral of someone who has had the opportunity to live a long life, as opposed to someone who died way too young. It’s easier when the death is expected or when there has been a great deal of suffering. It’s easier when the one who died was a believer and follower of Christ.

But as I have reflected on my aunt’s funeral, I saw something. I saw two perspectives. I saw the deep grief of loss with no hope, and deep grief with the eyes of belief.

Grieving From a Place of Unbelief

If you experience grief on this level, then there will be devasting loss. When Jesus was crucified on the cross as an innocent man, and died an excruciatingly painful death, His disciples mourned. They truly did not understand why this happened, even after Jesus told them explicitly that it would happen. He also told them that He would rise from the dead, but deep down they did not believe. In fact, they were totally shocked when three days later the tomb was empty. They were even more shocked and elated when Jesus suddenly appeared to them in the upper room behind locked doors. Their unbelief was transformed into rejoicing hope. Their lives were never the same.

Grieving While Still Believing

The preacher at my aunt’s funeral reminded us of this Scripture, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uniformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him…. therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, 18) We do not grieve like those who have no hope. If you believe Jesus died and rose again, and have surrendered your life to Him, then, like my Aunt Sue, even though absent in the body, you will be present with the Lord. I stood there in the cemetery looking at the casket that held my aunt’s body, and I couldn’t help but smile.

We ended the funeral by praying the Lord’s prayer. I couldn’t stop the tears. Tears because of my Savior, Jesus. He daily provides for me and my family. He forgives all my sin, failures and messes that I continue to make in this life. He enables me to forgive those who have wronged me. He keeps me in His loving arms all the days of my life, and His kingdom is eternal. Because Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave, I can smile at a funeral.

There were members of my family at that funeral who do not know Jesus. They do not truly believe that Jesus died on the cross and then rose from the grave. Their grief comes from unbelief, and they have no hope. Thankfully and praise God, they heard the gospel through the life of my aunt, but also as the preacher proclaimed the Scriptures.

But there is a challenge here also for those who believe. Do you really believe? Then you too can smile at a funeral.