Doctrine of Election
Voices In Your Head
One of my favourite country songs is one by Chris Young called “I Hear Voices” which is about a man talking about how thankful he is for all the good advice he’s gotten in his life –from his mom, dad, grandparents, etc – who now exist as voices in his head that help him make decisions. It’s a song by a man who is thankful for those voices, but I think we can all admit that not all the voices in our head are as positive and helpful. Many people, me included, live with a barrage of negative thinking that we simply can’t stop.
“You’re not good enough. You’ll never measure up to where you need to be. You’re a constant disappointment. If people knew what you were really like, they’d hate you even more than they do now. You’re a wreck. You’ll never have enough. You’re not worthy of love. You should just quit. All of your friends are just pretending to like you.
You are small, insignificant, and useless. If you died, you would make the world a better place. You’re the reason that everything has gone wrong.
You are stupid and worthless. Your mind is falling apart, your body is falling apart, and your dreams are falling apart. Your life has no point, no reason, no purpose. Why are you here? Who do you think you are? What is wrong with you?
You don’t deserve happiness! You don’t deserve good things. And every good thing that happens to you is just a trick anyway. It’s a setup. For every moment you feel good, two more are waiting to make you feel even worse.
Your world is on the verge of collapse and it’s all your fault. If you would have tried harder, worked more, loved more, prayed more, saved more, got up earlier, stayed up later, made better decisions, then you might have saved yourself, but you didn’t and now you’re doomed – and you’ve doomed everyone you care about. And it’s all your fault.”
Have you heard those voices?
I’m sure you have. Those thoughts and the sadness, anxiety and fear that come with them are a universal, human condition. You’re not alone. Christians aren’t immune to those voices. In fact, some might say that Christians have it even worse because along with all of that comes the guilt of knowing that we are sinners who have disappointed our Heavenly Father. And Satan loves to grab onto those moments and squeeze them for all they’re worth.
“You are filthy. You said you’d stop doing that and you didn’t. You said you loved Jesus and clearly you don’t. You said you’re a Christian, but you can’t be. You shouldn’t even pray anymore because God’s not listening. Why would he listen to a hypocrite like you? There’s no point in asking for forgiveness because God is sick of you committing the same sins over and over. He hates you. That’s why things are so hard right now, because you’ve made yourself an enemy of God. You don’t act like a Christian. You barely act like a human being! All of the people at church are better than you. No one else sins like you do. You’re a sham, a fake, a fool. You shouldn’t even go to church. You’re not good enough. You should quit. Give in. Stay home where you belong. Your presence profanes the very building! I know where your hands have been. I know what you’ve said. I know the horrible things you’ve been thinking. I know what you’ve done. So does God. And God hates you for it. Give up this bogus faith. You’re not cut out for this Christian thing. It’s too hard. Give up. Go back to your old, easier, life. It made sense and you didn’t feel guilty all the time. God hates you, the angels hate you, the church hates you, your pastor hates you – because you are worth hating. Stay home. Stay alone. Just quit.”
Have you ever felt that? Ever suffered through that kind of thinking?
It’s immensely painful isn’t it? And sometimes, it’s very, very convincing. You feel like that thinking is right.
“I am a mess. I am a sinner. I am filled with sadness, anxiety, pride, fear, and shame, and no matter what I do, I can’t get rid of it. Christians aren’t supposed to feel this way, are they? I’m supposed to be happy, victorious, joyful, nice, loving, aren’t I? Maybe I am beyond help. Maybe I’m fooling myself. Maybe I am a fraud.”
The Truth Will Set You Free
This is why we need to know the truth. So we can take these thoughts captive and evaluate them for whether or not they are actually right (2 Cor 10:5). Last week I reminded you that Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32) and reminded you that when we start to believe things outside of God’s word, we will find ourselves in bondage.
The church in Corinth, just like many today, had started to listen to other voices and accept other beliefs that were contrary to the Bible, and consequently, they were in bondage to sin, division, lust, greed, and more. They were no longer set free by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but had allowed false teachers and false thinking to place the shackles back on their souls – and this grieved the Apostle Paul who had spent so much time with them. Just like Eve had done in the Garden of Eden when she took the forbidden fruit, they had accepted the words of a liar, exchanged the truth for a lie, turned their backs on God’s Word, all the while thinking it was going to bring them more freedom, but actually brought death.
Now, instead of living in freedom, their lives and their church was falling apart. And so Paul kicks off his letter with some extremely important words reminding them about who they were and where they had come from.
Let’s read 1 Corinthians 1:1-3:
“Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Over the next couple weeks, I want to concentrate on two super-critical words that God has Paul write to this church that was spiraling out of control. It’s two words that we need to keep in our mind at all times, especially when the negative thoughts, accusations, anxiety, fear, and depression starts to take hold. When those thoughts start to roll in, instead of allowing them to overwhelm us, we need to stop, evaluate them and see if they are true or not. And I believe that these two words will help us: Called and Sanctified. Let’s talk about “called” today.
How Salvation Works
We talked a little about this last week when we said that Paul was reminding the Corinthians whose they were. He was an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the Will of God, and they were the Church of God. But we need to notice something important here: It is not Paul who decided He would be an Apostle, nor the Corinthians who decided they would be a church – it was God who had “called” them to Himself.
This is such a hugely important truth! When the voices in your head start to tell you that you aren’t worthy to be a Christian, that you don’t deserve God’s love, that God is sick-and-tired of you, and that He’s given up on you, you can lean on this unshakeable truth: becoming a follower of Jesus wasn’t your decision. God picked you. He chose you. You are one of His chosen people. Becoming a Christian wasn’t your idea, it was His. He knew exactly what you were, all you had done, and everything that you would do – and He picked you anyway.
Theologians call this the Doctrine of Election, which includes things like Predestination and God’s Foreknowledge, and it’s an extremely comforting bit of theology that simply means that Jesus loved you, accepted you, and died for you way before you even knew about Him. He loved you first. Let me take you through this a bit so you can understand it.
People sometimes think that they are the ones that choose to become Christians, as though one day they just decided that they now hate their sin and want Jesus to take over their lives. The picture they sometimes use of salvation is that people are drowning and God is in a rescue boat throwing out ropes for people to grab onto. All we need to do is grab onto the rope and God will drag them into heaven. And as long as they are holding onto that rope, then they are saved. Not everyone will grab the rope, but instead will try to save themselves by treading water or trying to swim to another island. But, they say, Christianity is the only boat and grabbing onto God’s rope is the only way to be saved. BUT – they caution, don’t let go of the rope, or you’ll be lost again! Make sure you hold on! Do good things, pray every day, be a good person, or you’ll drop the rope and drown.
That’s a false picture of salvation. The Bible says it this way in Ephesians 2:1-9:
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
No boat, no rope, no hanging on. You were spiritually dead. You could not and would not grab a rope if God sent it to you. Why? First, because you are dead and can’t save yourself, and second because you were his enemy. You followed “the prince of the power of the air”, God’s enemy, Satan. You played for the other team and lived in the passions of the flesh. You were under God’s wrath because you were on Satan’s team. But, even though you were a dead, rotting, enemy corpse, who loved sin, God loved you with a “great love” and chose to resurrect you to new life in Christ. He gave you grace – undeserved merit – “that he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus”!
You see, if you’re the one who grabs the rope, then you get the credit (or the glory) for having the strength to hold on to it. God doesn’t share glory with anyone and wants all the credit for Himself, so that’s not how it works. You were dead and God made you alive!
You were Lazarus, dead to the world, rotting, stinky, a corpse, and yet Jesus yelled into your tomb, “Lazarus, come out!” Let me read that part to you because it is a picture of your salvation:
“When [Jesus] had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’” (John 11:43-44)
That’s what Jesus does for us. He calls us out, takes away that which binds us, removes the disgust, and gives us freedom to “go”.
This truth is a powerful weapon against the enemy when he starts to fill your mind with thoughts about how little you are worth and how much God hates you. You take that thought captive and you ask yourself, “Is that true? Is it true that I’m worthless, that I’m on my own, that God doesn’t love me, that I’m a big disappointment, that I’m alone? Is that true?”
“No!”, you must answer yourself, “I didn’t choose this life, God chose me for it. God’s love for me isn’t based on how good I am, but on how good He is. God raised me from the dead! He didn’t have to but chose to do that for me! I don’t know what made me special in His eyes, but somehow I am. I’m a called person. I’m a child of God because God wanted to adopt me. Out of all the billions of people who have existed on this earth, God reached down and picked me to be one of His own. I did NOTHING to deserve it, in fact I was His enemy, but He called me. He yelled into my tomb and brought me back to life because He loves me so much! So shut up, Satan. I don’t believe you.”
Live as a Called Person
This is something we see all over the Bible, and it’s important we get it clear because it’s something that Paul is going to refer back to a few times in 1st Corinthians. The word “called” appears 13 times in this letter as he reminds the church about where they came from, how much God loves them, and how important it is to live as a “called” people.
Part of the reason that they must live different lives from those around them is because God called them to a different kind of life. God brought you from death to life and bought your soul with the life of His beloved Son. You’re His now. “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.” (6:19-20) So lived as you were called to live.
For example, when he is about to talk about the divisions in the church, and their unfaithfulness towards one another, He says “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1:9) Why should you stop dividing and divorcing? Because you’re not there by your own choice; God called you to be there. If marrying that person or joining this church was your idea then go ahead and leave, but if the God of the universe called you to be there, then you better work things out.
When he talks about singleness, marriage, and divorce, he doesn’t just give advice, He reminds them that they need to do what God called them to do. “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.” (1 Corinthians 7:17) “Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.” (7:20)
He keeps reminding them that they are different now. They are not self-governing but are governed by Jesus, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit. His argument, throughout the letter, is to take them back to the truth. Someone convinced them that they were allowed to set their own rules and come up with their own standards. They had forgotten that they were “God’s church in Corinth” and had started to think that their church was their idea.
In chapter 2:26-29 Paul says,
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”
Over and over and over Paul says, “Remember, you’re not a believer because you decided to be! God could have left you in stuck in your sin and forgotten your pagan city – but He didn’t. Instead, He called you to be part of His family – and it wasn’t because you were so great, but because you were so weak and foolish. You were called, washed, cleaned up, and made right with God by Jesus Christ and the Spirit, because He loves you. Why would you want to go back to living like those who are deceived?”
You see, this word “called” not only brings us hope when we are in a dark place but also motivates us to action! God chose and called you because He loves you. And now, as a beloved and called person, you are to live your life as a citizen of His Kingdom. He breaks the power of sin, and cancels your debt, so now you go out and forgive others too. You love because you know you are loved. You hate sin and work against it because you know the truth about it. You obey because you honour your new king. You humble yourself because your Lord and Master Jesus did the same for you.
When the voices in your head say, “You’re not powerful enough, you’re not smart enough, you’re not good enough, you’re not strong enough…” you can say, “Yep, exactly. And yet God loves me, He called me, He takes care of me anyway, and I live for Him. And there’s nothing that will change that. He picked me!” Knowing you are “called” has enormous consequences to how you think and live your life, doesn’t it?
More Biblical Evidence
Let me close by sharing just a few more verses about this idea of being “called” or “Elected” or “Predestined” to salvation, so you know that I’m not coming up with this with only a couple of verses. I want you to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that your salvation – and the salvation of those you are praying for – has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with God.
In Acts 13:17 Paul explains salvation by starting at the beginning. He says , “The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt….” Who chose Israel to be God’s people? God did. He said to them in Deuteronomy 7:6-8,
“For you are a people holy [or “set apart” or “called”] to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers…”
Do you see that? God didn’t save Israel from Egypt because they were so great, but because they couldn’t save themselves! In the same way, God didn’t choose Abram to be the father of the Jewish nation because he was so great. Abram was a worshiper of pagan gods who had a wife who couldn’t bear children, and yet God chose them to be the parents of “a great nation”, to make Abram’s “name great”, and to “be a blessing to others.” (Gen 12:2) Why? For no other reason than because God decided to show Abram some grace. He didn’t deserve it, but God called him anyway.
Same with Noah. Noah wasn’t perfect. He was a sinner who deserved to die in the flood too, and yet he “found favour in the eyes of the Lord.” (Gen 6) Moses too. He was a murderer and a coward and God chose him anyway (Exodus 2). Gideon was a coward too, and yet God used him in mighty ways. Jephthah was a social reject. David was a warmonger and philanderer. We’re all sinners who give God every excuse not to love us.
But this is the story of how God deals with His people. God chose prophets from unlikely places. When Israel wanted a King, God picked him. When God sent His Son to be born as a human, He’s the One who chose Mary and Joseph. We don’t tell Him how things are going to go. He calls us. God is the one who chooses.
Jesus says to the disciples, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (John 6:44) and when He speaks to them at the Last Supper He says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (Jn 15:16) God drew you, I called you and I promise you will be equipped to do what I called you to do. And later in verse 19, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
Later, God would say this to the Christian church, through Peter,
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Pe 2:9–10)
Don’t Forget Your Calling
That’s the give and take of the word “called”. It means you are loved beyond your understanding, and were so before you were even born – and there’s nothing you can do to lose that love. And since your calling was God’s idea, that means that He’s the one who has the responsibility of taking care of you! He’s the one who cleans you up, changes your heart, defends your spirit, and gives you everything you need to do what He’s called you to do.
The only way to mess that up is to either forget it. When we forget that we are called, then it’s easier to start to think that God hates us or that we need to impress Him for Him to love us or that He’s forgotten us and left us to fend for ourselves. None of that is true. That’s why you need to be in God’s Word and talk to God every day – or you’ll start to forget your calling.
If you are a Christian today, then He has proven His love for you, and will continue to. The only question you have to ask yourself is this: Will you live in that love? Will you allow God to love you, speak to you, comfort you, equip you, challenge you, and change you? That’s God’s job and His gift to you. Or do you think all of that is still on your shoulders?
Maybe you need to let go of some things because He wants to bring you healing.
Maybe you need to stop trying to be in control so He can take over.
Maybe you need to get back on your knees, and get back into the word, so God can remind you of how much He loves you.
Maybe you need to change something in your life because you know that you’re not living as you are called to live.
Maybe you need to repent of allowing the lies of Satan to flood your mind and convince you that you are unloved and unwanted.
Maybe God’s been tugging on your heart for a while now, but you don’t want to let Him in because you know He’s going to make a mess in there, ruin your plans, change you into something else, and require you to live differently. He’s been calling you, but you’re resisting, choosing to live your way instead. You know what He wants you to do, but you are refusing.
If that’s what’s going on this morning, I give you a warning: Don’t harden your heart to the voice of God. Don’t be someone who feels the presence of God, and willfully and persistently rejects His call. Don’t reject the ministry of the Holy Spirit that is trying to call you to repentance and forgiveness – or you will be condemned.
The more you practice hardening your heart to the voice of God, the easier it will become until eventually you can’t hear it anymore. Don’t allow yourself to get there. That is asking God for life outside of His presence, which is Hell. Instead, listen to His voice, hear His message, submit to His call, and receive His grace.
There are lots of pictures of the apostles. Probably the most famous picture with all the disciples is Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Last Supper”, but many artists over time have tried to put together a rendering of what they looked like.
Over the next couple weeks, since I’m not much of an artist, I want to paint a mental portrait of the different disciples and their relationship to Jesus. I want us all to know these men who changed history a little better.
Saying a Lot With a Little List
We are still in the Gospel of Mark, so let’s take a look at the text behind these mini-biographies in Mark 3:13-19:
“Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve—designating them apostles—that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons. 16 These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”
Mark is masterful at using very few words to say a lot. In this list he paints a picture of a simple group of people using their names, nicknames and a little information. This list isn’t just a list, it’s a statement. It gives us a peek at their personalities, their normality. He lets us in that Simon (which means “hearing with acceptance”) was given a nickname by Jesus. He called him “Peter” which means “Stone”. That certainly tells us something important, though we don’t exactly know what yet. He lets us in that Jesus called James and Jon the “Sons of Thunder”… a word to describe fiery and destructive zeal – like a lighting bolt — which is an awesome nickname! We learn about Simon who we don’t know much about, but the word Zealot either means he was from Canaan, or it means that he was passionate about keeping the Law of Moses. Either way it tells us something about him.
Choosing The Foolish
What this list reminds me of, since I’ve read the rest of the book, is that this is a group of people just like you and me. They were normal, sinful guys who were chosen by Jesus, walked with Him during their lifetime, were given a special mission and gifting to do something special. They had struggles. Some doubted more than others. At some point all of them faltered or failed. Some were impulsive and needed correction. Others were explosive and caused problems. And there were those who betrayed and denied Jesus during His worst hours. And yet, each one was hand chosen by Jesus, and used in an amazing way to build His church.
It reminds me of 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 which says:
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”
I’m reading more and more biographies these days and this is what I’m reminded about. God loves to show His glory, grace and power by using weak, insignificant, lowly, foolish people who can’t possibly take the credit for what God is doing through them. And the Apostles are no different. I think this is the wonderfully encouraging message hidden inside this list of names in these few verses.
But before we get into the mini-biographies, I want to point out a couple of important things first.
The first thing we have to remember about the disciples is that they did not volunteer. They didn’t ask to be Apostles, nor were they simply in the right place at the right time. Mark 3:13 says:
“And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him.”
Luke 6:12-13 speaks about the same story, but gives an important detail. It says:
“In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles.”
Hundreds of disciples were following Jesus at this time, but only 12 were chosen by Jesus to be the apostles. After a night of prayer, Jesus came to the group and chose 12 men that He would build into leaders of the church, and took them away for special training. These would be the people whom He would spend the most time with, give the most training to, and who would be His messengers – “apostles” means “messengers” – throughout the land, would carry His message, and lead his church after He left.
Jesus does the same thing today. It is not we who first choose Jesus. Even though we sometimes speak that way, we must realize that Jesus chooses us before we chose Him. This is called the Doctrine of Election. We are chosen. 1 Corinthians just said that – “God chose what is foolish…”. In the Old testament God chose a nation for Himself, Israel (Deut 7:6). In the New Testament we are called “chosen” all the time.
The quintessential verses on this come from Ephesians 1:3-5 which says:
“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, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will…”
Just like the apostles, for every Christian Jesus makes the first call to salvation and then gives us the opportunity to obey that call. We’ve talked about this before. Jesus opens up our heart to see His light, and then gives us the choice to accept or reject Him. We call that grace. We would never choose to submit to Jesus if it wasn’t for Him showing us the depth of our sin problem, and inviting us to be a part of His kingdom.
Why The Doctrine of Election is Important
Why is this doctrine important? Because sometimes we think – even after meeting Jesus and getting saved – that we need to clean ourselves up before we can come to God. The thinking is that we are too broken, too sinful, too uncoordinated, too ordinary, too dirty to come before God, even to ask forgiveness. Some people say that they can’t come to God because of the things they’ve done. They think they have to tidy up their lives to make themselves worthy of His grace. But that’s the thing… you can’t be worthy of grace!
I’ve heard many people say that about being baptized. They say, “I’m not ready” as though they are not quite acceptable to God yet, and that there is a point in the future, after they clean up some part of their life, kick a habit, deal with an issue, that they will be able to feel like they are good enough to accept God’s free gift of grace and really start serving Him. That’s not how grace works.
One of the great things about getting to know the disciples is that to more we learn about them, the more we realize that God might have actually chosen us too because they were some messed up people! One of my commentaries says this:
“Grace does not make humanness a disqualifying characteristic. As disappointing as the disciples may have been, they leave room for us to hope. When we are aware of our unworthiness to merit God’s mercy and love, we are in the best position to experience what He can do for us.” (Life Application Bible Commentary, Mark– Pg 79)
I love that:
“When we are aware of our unworthiness to merit God’s mercy and love, we are in the best position to experience what He can do for us.”
It reminds me of one of my favourite verses, Ephesians 2:8-9,
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
The lives of the disciples remind us that Jesus chooses people like us to be saved, and then uses people like us to change the world through Him. That’s all amazing grace.
Chosen for a Purpose
The second point I want to remind us of from this passage is that God chooses us for a purpose. Mark 3:14 says, “And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach…” Again, Jesus works the same way today. Once we respond to Jesus and say, “Yes, Lord, I need you!”, He cleanses us of our sin, seals us with the Holy Spirit, and makes us into a new creation. From that point on we are His disciples. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says:
“You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.”
That price was the precious blood of Jesus Christ, traded for yours, so you might be saved. The language here is that of the slave trade… bought from one master – sin, death and Satan – and sold to another – Jesus.
Hebrews 9:14 says it this way:
“…how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”
We were saved by grace so we can serve for God’s glory. No longer do we simply do “dead works”, but we are given natural and supernatural gifts so we might give honour to He who is our Saviour. Now, it doesn’t happen all at once. You will be training, practicing, and upgrading your skills for the rest of your life. That’s part of what Philippians 2:12 calls, “…working out your own salvation with fear and trembling…”.Your whole life will now be about working out your salvation under Christ. From the day you are saved, you have a divine purpose and something special to do.
Let’s go back to Ephesians and read the next verse… 2:8-10 says:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
There’s both concepts together. We are created, designed, chosen, elected, and prepared before hand… for works of righteousness that God has already picked for us. Jesus does look for volunteers, but hand picks each member of His kingdom to be saved and to serve Him.
He wanted these men. And if you are saved today, then He wanted you. And if you feel Him knocking on the door of your heart, inviting you to lay down your burden, be cleansed from your sin, and to accept Him as Lord, then He wants you too.
The Answer to Our Deepest Questions
That’s a wonderful thing and I hope that brings you great joy. Knowing that answers some of the deepest and most frequent questions people ask about their existence. What is my purpose? Who am I? Why am I so different? What am I supposed to do with my life?
The answer is that you are a special creation of God, beloved of the Father. You have been given grace because you are so loved. You are saved by the blood of Jesus, forgiven from all of your sins, and brought into an eternal, loving relationship with your Creator. He designed you, knit you together in your mother’s womb, and given you His Spirit within you, to do a special work, which He has prepared for you to do. That’s encouraging, isn’t it?
Jesus didn’t choose these twelve men because they had such great faith – because they often showed that they didn’t. He didn’t chose them because they had some kind of great talent or ability. The disciples have a wide range of backgrounds, life experiences, and temperaments, and none of them seemed to be any better than those who were not chosen. In fact, for most of His ministry, they didn’t have a clue what Jesus was doing and often got in His way taking up time with dumb questions and arguments! The one characteristic they all shared was their willingness to accept the call of Jesus on their lives. They simply said “yes” and Jesus took it from there.
What that tells me, and I hope it tells you, is that you are not disqualified from being saved, being baptized, or serving Jesus because you don’t feel like you have the credentials. All you need is a heart that is willing to say “yes” and simply go where Jesus points you.
Jesus doesn’t need superstars who he can send onto the court to do all the work. What he wants are people who will submit themselves to His Lordship, His school of discipleship, and let Him direct their life. People who are willing to subordinate their plans to his, their wills to his. People who will love what He loves, hate what He hates, walk where He walks, and say what He said.
It is amazing when Jesus, through the Bible He has written for you, by His Spirit speaking into your Spirit, through the people in church He has given you – gives you the divine instruction, coaching, equipment, practice, character, and time to mature that you need to be a fully-functioning, obedient, joyful, and replicating disciple who is fulfilling God’s plan for your life. It’s pretty amazing stuff and those who have gotten a taste of it are changed to their very core.