Thursday, April 16, 2009

Have You Lost the Joy of the Election?

If you're a pastor that believes the Bible teaches both (1) the responsibility of man to repent and believe and (2) the sovereignty of God in choosing people unto salvation, you probably spend a lot of time explaining at least one-half of that belief to a number of your congregants. It is a joyful privilege to explain the whole counsel of God, to encourage people in new areas of biblical truth that they might not have seen or understood before.

It's also sometimes disconcerting for people as they learn things they hadn't understood before, things that really alter their understanding of the Scriptures and of God in a major way. The fancy-smancy psychological term for this is cognitive dissonance. Well, in a number of such conversations, it's not cognitive but emotional dissonance. People sometimes see the truth, have an emotional reaction to the truth (not necessarily denying the truth), and decide they don't like it. Patience is required in such cases, as well as helping people understand that an emotional impulse to deny the truth does not come from the Lord. The truth should shape our emotional responses, rather than our emotional responses shaping our acceptance of the truth.

All that to say: it's really helpful to underscore reasons why a particular truth should be cause for rejoicing. Truth is for our joy. And that's true of every truth in Scripture, including God's sovereign choosing of His people.

A few biblical reasons to rejoice in election:

Election ensures that God's purposes stand:
"Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad--in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls--she was told, 'The older will serve the younger'." (Rom. 9:11-12)

Election ensures that our salvation depends on mercy, not ourselves:
"It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy" (Rom. 9:16).

Election maintains the Creator-creature distinction, producing humility:
"One of you will say to me: 'Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? 'Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, "Why did you make me like this?"' Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?" (Rom. 9:19-21)

Election guarantees our good in life and our glorification with Christ:
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he justified; those he justified, he also glorified" (Rom. 8:28-30).

"But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thes. 2:13-14).

Election ensures blameless justification:
"Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies" (Rom. 8:33).

Election guarantees that God will be worshipped:
"God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don't you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah--how he appealed to God against Israel: 'Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me'? And what was God's answer? 'I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal." So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace" (Rom. 11:2-5).

"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" (Eph. 1:11-12).

Election establishes grace:
"So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace" (Rom. 11:6).

Election obtains the salvation we seek:
"What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written: 'God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day'." (Rom. 11:7-8).

"But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth" (2 Thes. 2:13).

Election makes the gifts and calling of God irrevocable:
"As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable" (Rom. 11:28-29).

Election accords with God's plan to make us holy and blameless:
"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight." (Eph. 1:4)

Election expresses itself with the Father's love toward us in adoption:
"In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will..." (Eph. 1:4-5).

Election coincides with the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit:
"To God's elect, strangers in the world... who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood" (1 Pet. 1:1-2).

"But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth" (2 Thes. 2:13).

Election provides the ground for our perseverance in gospel ministry:
"One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: 'Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.' So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God" (Acts 18:9-11).

"Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God's word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory" (2 Tim. 2:10).

Election limits the deception and the destruction of the last days:
"those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again. If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them" (Mark 13:19-20).

"For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible" (Matthew 24:24).

Rejoice! And again I will say, Rejoice! The truth will make you free!


samurai said...

An excellent post Pastor... i know the main subject is Election... but for me the part that spoke the loudest was when you mentioned "emotional dissonance". It is one of the main reasons "religion" is a taboo topic. The things of God, especially His truth, stir the emotions. And when ones beliefs do not align with God's truth we react. Our sinful pride cries out. It takes God's grace to sit and digest something that we may not agree with, but is true anyway.

In the end God's truth is, well, truth. It is correct, and whatever perception we have of it being wrong is of course wrong. It is in those moments i pray for God's grace (especially in myself) to lay my pride to death - so that i can receive His truth and truly be conformed into the image of His Son, my Lord, Jesus Christ.

Thank you for this post Pastor.

a brother in Christ,


Dan S. said...

Fantastic list! (... although with the definite article in the title, I anticipated something about losing joy over the presidential election.) :-)

Thanks for this great reminder!

karin said...

Just struggling with a truth I've heard so often but ignored before, that struck an emotional response yesterday that caused exactly what you described. It requires obedience on my part. Thanks for this, for me, timely post.

Nathan Metcalf said...

I have had the great joy of sharing the thoughts and truths of election with some of the teenagers I work with and the point that I always try to hit home with the kids is exactly what you said about Eph1:4-5. "it is in love that we are Predestined" we need to camp there and not start thinking that out of hate others are not predestined. I am amazed at how many kids and teenagers can get this hard to understand truth.