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January 14, 2013 / Pastor George Fike

Just “because…”


An Etchings App Photo

When I was pastoring a church in northern Illinois, I would meet periodically with a group of pastors from neighboring churches for prayer.  We’d pray for our churches, our communities, and for one another.  One of my co-laborers was the pastor of a Wesleyan church, and he was very concerned that his brother and sister-in-law were no longer “in faith.”  I supposed that was the way his particular denomination referred to church members who had backslidden and though “once were found, they now were lost.” He looked around at those of us who were from more Reformed traditions and said, “I just wish I could believe like you guys do.”  It was perhaps uncouth, but I responded, “You can’t help it; that’s just the way God made you.”  Don’t worry; everybody laughed – including my Wesleyan brother – because the love of God and the brotherhood of believers is what we majored on anyhow.

Anyway, I thought maybe it would be worthwhile to talk about one of the most confusing subjects in Christian thought: election and predestination. I think I’ve heard more questions about this subject than any other – even the book of Revelation and the end times.  Maybe that’s because regardless of when Jesus returns and what will the earth be like at that time, most people realize those are just details.  Life will end one way or the other, whether I die in my bed or looking up at the business end of a guillotine or suddenly getting wisked up into the sky.  What really counts is what will happen after “that’s all she wrote”!  And a lot of people live in fear.

got questions?

  • How can I know if what I believe is true?” 
  • “How can I be sure that I’ll make it into heaven?”
  • “How do I know I’m one of the ‘elect’?”  
  • “What if I was never meant to be saved?”

And over the last 35 years, i have heard each of these questions many times.  Tackling the texts concerning foreknowledge, predestination and election can settle the issue for a believer struggling with these uncertainties.  I’d like you to look with me at a text that can help us understand these concepts.

Romans 8:

28 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. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Notice in verse 28 the final phrase: according to his purpose.  This is key.  We must not overlook the importance of God working out His purpose.  Before we get too concerned with who has been called, let’s remember what the Bible teaches us about God’s grand design.

… what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?  You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.  You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet…  Psalm 8:4-6

The Lord is … patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:17

concept-sketchYou see, God indeed has a Grand Design for mankind.  He is not leaving our existence to chance.  He is actively working through the cause and effect of our natural order, sometimes even intervening in history because he is leaving nothing to chance.  But what is clear in scripture is that we are not helpless victims of fate; we are each invited to be part of His plan. And it is important for each of us to take responsibility for his/her choice.  The key that unlocks the door of heaven is “whosoever believes in Him.”

Note the word “called.”  The Greek word from the New Testament is often translated “chosen,” “elect,” “selected.”  But is is also translated “named.”  Jesus actually does a play on words with this concept in Matthew 22:14:

“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Many are called to, but few are called out.

Imagine you are at the gym and you want to play basketball, but there are a lot of people wanting to play.  So two captains step up to choose sides.  How do they do it?  Taking turns, they call out a name, and one by one they build their teams.  But let’s say you don’t like the guy who called your name, so you say, “That’s OK.  I’ll take my chance on the next game.”  You were called to, but you are not one of the called out.  Instead of playing the game, you’re still sitting on the sidelines.  And good luck getting into a game!

Monument_to_a_great1024px-Michael_Jordan_AchievementsEveryone is invited to join God’s team. And once you join, you have a destiny. Let’s say, the basketball captain who called your name was Michael Jordan (November 1, 1994 ceremony at which the famous No. 23 was retired, sits on a 5-foot high black granite base inscribed with Jordan’s basketball achievements, and the words, “The best there ever was. The best there ever will be.”)  If you agree to play with him, you won’t be sitting; you’ll win every game.  Because your destiny is tied to your captain.  So it is with Jesus.  God decided that whoever responded to Jesus’ call would share His destiny.  If you play on His team, you’re going to win. No two ways about it.  Predestination just means God knows what is in store for those who get on the train.  The train doesn’t ask you where you want to go.  You get on a train because it is predestined to take you where you want to go.  It is not God saying, “I’m going to make you go to heaven,” and it’s not God saying, “I’m going to make you go to hell.”  It is God saying, “My beloved Son is going to sit at My right hand; if you want to go with Him – grab hold!

A building is constructed based on a plan in the architect’s mind.  The building exists – at first, only as a concept – but one day it will open for occupation.  Nobody is surprised by its design; that was determined beforehand.  But they do enjoy its final tangibility.  So it is with our heavenly home.  It has already been designed.  Scripture guarantees it to us, and we live expectantly to occupy it.  It will not surprise us… but it will certainly take our breath away at the Grand Opening!  It is predestined!

[to be continued!]

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