Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Our God is a great BIG God (5)

2. Election is not by works (Romans 9:10-13)

This is really important. We've said that you get saved because God chooses to save you. Now, you might think that that's because of something in you.

What was it like a school when you played sports – when did you get picked? Up to the age of 15 I was tiny and not very good at sport as a result. I'd be among the last picks. Then at 15 I shot up the best part of a foot in height in just over a year... the moderate skill that I'd been working at was added too by some bulk and physical power... Everyone still thought of me as the little kid but eventually they noticed.... finally when we had our year photo arranged in height order, it came as a shock to many that I was stood among them... Not my fault that I'd shot up to 6 foot.

Whether its outward appearance or performance, we live in a world that is all about how you do. And you get picked based on how good you are at something. You got into Reading University because you achieved the required grades. When you get a job you submit your CV and have an interview to try and impress them. Its all works based.

You could almost be forgiven for thinking that God might work the same way. Surely, he picks the religious – the ones who go to church. Or surely, he picks the spiritually minded.. Surely, he picks the introverts, or the extroverts... the clever or the stupid. We edit criteria to include or exclude ourselves depending on whether we want to fit or not.

But how does God work. Paul takes us to Israel-Generation-2. To Isaac and Rebecca and the birth of their twin sons. See v12, she, Rebecca, was told “The older will serve the younger” - “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated”. Which is to say that God chose Jacob; and didn't choose Esau. But why?

The explanation comes in v10-11. See what it says, tracing the argument back from v11 to v10. See, God chooses Jacob over Esau:
i.before birth...
ii.before actions...
The bad guy, the younger son inherits. And this was God's purpose in election continuing.

As Jerry Bridges has said:
Your best days don't put you above grace... your worst days don't put you beyond grace
... why? Because it has nothing to do with your works. God's purpose in election is to save whomever he wants! On the basis of himself! -- You're not a Christian because of what you've done... or will do. The only thing in your favour is your depravity and sin... your utter unlikeliness. God saw the depths of your sin and delights to show grace.

Before I was a Christian I was nice and religious as well as being a hypocrite and a bully. I lived different lives in different places with different people. And it sucked as a way of life. But God saved me. My religiosity was self-righteousness, and my other behaviour was just unpleasant a lot of the time.

But God called me. Not because I deserved it. Chosen before birth, and then saved. He saw the sin in the depths of my heart and he saved me, age 18 six weeks ahead of University. I'm sure in doing so he spared me from further potential ruin.... freed from having to show my “good” side who knows what might have happened.

All glory to him and no credit to me. If I was clever I ought to have figured out the gospel a bit sooner – I'd been to church all my life.... Sure it wasn't a great example of a gospel-church but I wasn't without access to the truth. Church of England litergy is packed with truth...

I was an avid reader who owned two largely unread Bibles at the time I became a Christian... not to mention one week at Spring Harvest... Christian parents... Christian friends... a few Christian CDs that people had given me.. God called me on the basis of “his purpose of election” so that I couldn't take any credit at all. My only boast: Jesus. That is his purpose in election.

Lets stop and feel one of the implications of this: Many try to say that if you believe in election then you wont do evangelism – you'd just wait for people to come and get saved. But that's the opposite of the real application! Election empowers evangelism.
God’s initiative empowers you to overcome and we need to be a generation that knows this...The heroes of the Bible were not thinkers, not philosophers, they were fighters.”
- Tom Shaw, cited by Tim Suffield (I think I'd want to say not just thinkers...)
Why? The world looks hopeless – people are not interested in believing... we're a small minority... But election says, contrary to appearances, God has people he will save!

Moreover. No-one has any good reason not to believe, because election is not on the basis of any desire, effort or heritage on our part. I'd love to expand on this but the simple truth is that no-one has a good answer to the question:
“Why shouldn't you become a Christian?”
They can't say: not good enough...
Can't say: not Christian family...
Only - “I refuse to”
And that is a terrible reason to avoid believing in Jesus. What kind of person would hear about the glories of the grace that is in Jesus Christ and say – I don't want that!! It's no excuse... So, go and preach the grace of God to God's world! Paul pleads this with us with tears... These are words of anguish for those who do not know Christ... and of passion for the glory of Christ.... a passion to see people saved, who are without excuse.

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