The deepest identity and security of Christians are found in these words: chosen by God. We know that none are worthy of God’s choice. God doesn’t choose the “good guys.” No! The lost, the worthless, the weak, the insignificant, the moral train wrecks, the foolish of this world are the ones our God delights to call his own. Here are some of my reflections on the doctrine of God’s sovereign and gracious election of his people and what it means for our identity and security. Woven into my reflections are songs and hymns of the church that rejoice in that life-changing truth.
Chosen by God
If they knew me who would love me? But God knows me, knows all of me. My deleted history, the skeletons in the closet, my rationalizations, every bed that I’ve slept in, every lie I’ve told, every animosity and exclusion and act of violence. He sees the blood on my hand. And he sees what I have not done. My fear. My insecurity. My silence. All the times that I have not acted in love and courage. He sees it all and all of me, and yet did not wait for me to make the move. He, the holy, majestic, wonderful, awesome and unspeakably beautiful God chose me. He moved first.
God Chose Me
God chose me, the particular and uniquely depraved person I am. This truth destroys all pride. I would never had chosen to follow Christ by my own will and desires. Besides my sins of commission and omission, I’m just an average, unspectacular, run-of-the-mill, average bloke, less than a blip in the mass of humanity. Still, long before I was born, in the eternal ages before creation and in the sovereign mystery of his freedom, God chose to love me and rescue me and send his Son to die for me to make me holy and blameless in his sight and most amazing, to be his son or his daughter. I chose Christ because he first chose me.
Chosen By Grace
The Christian identity is the only one that is based on grace. Not my family of origin, race or ethnicity, good deeds or moral fitness, economic status or cultural impact, none of this was the basis of God’s choice. He choice to love me based only in his free love and pleasure and nothing in me; all that he found in me required God to send his son to die the death my sin deserved. My salvation was not determined by my free choice or wise insight or spiritual acuity. No! It is traced back to God’s free and sovereign choice of me and love for me; his insight and acuity about me required the sending of his own Son to save me.
Chosen as God’s people
God chose me, the particular man that I am. I’m not chosen to be isolated but rather to be part of a global community of grace. The church is the only human community where belonging and status are based on grace and no identity marker, moral resume or religious attainment. In this community pride and self-righteousness are shattered by the doctrine that we are loved by God for nothing in us and only for his pleasure and praise. Here I can dare to be the broken man I am and walk in the light of truth and have fellowship with the other broken sinners, my brothers and sisters.
This is why the Christian church is a singing community. We cannot not sing. We must sing! Joy erupts from our hearts. Wonder overflows from our lives. Jesus never tires of us, or quits on us, our rejects us and so we never tire of the wonderful grace of Jesus. Here is a new arrangement of hymn “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” by my friend, Worship Director Nathan Partain.
The wonderful grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin; How shall my tongue describe it, where shall its praise begin? Taking away my burden, setting my spirit free; The wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me. The wonderful grace of Jesus, reaching a mighty host, By it I have been pardoned, saved to the uttermost, Chains have been torn asunder, giving me liberty; The wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me. More patient than my fight, more faithful than my doubt, Persistent though I run, O how his grace abounds! Broader than my sin, deeper than my shame, Stronger than my evil, O praise Jesus name! The wonderful grace of Jesus, reaching the most defiled, By its transforming power, making him God’s dear child, Purchasing peace and heaven, for all eternity; The wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me. More patient than my fight, more faithful than my doubt, Persistent though I run, O how his grace abounds! Broader than my sin, deeper than my shame, Stronger than my evil, O praise Jesus name! The wonderful grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin; How shall my tongue describe it, where shall its praise begin?
Chosen as the Bride of Christ
Chosen “in him” the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 1:4. God gave to his son a vast multitude of people from every nation, tribe, people and language to be redeemed, bought back from the curse of death and slavery to sin and following the dark ways of this world and allegiance to the Prince of Darkness, to be his bride. Jesus in love came for his bride, lived for his bride, died for his bride, bled for his bride, covered his bride and now waits for his bride.
This song by Nathan Partain sums the beauty of the church as the bride of Christ that in response to the love of her husband now waits and lives for her husband.
She has saved her whole heart for you Lord, She has kept her eyes pure for you Lord. She has waited and waited, while her hungers were raging, To taste only the love of her Lord. She has set her delight in you Lord, She has stayed all her thoughts on you Lord. She has stilled her desires, all her tossing and straying, She has put all her hope in you Lord. You have washed her for the day of her wedding, Promised yourself, by your Spirit abiding. In the earthquakes and war, Lord, can you hear her singing, Her arms are raised high, she is radiant, she is holy, Your beloved is ready. She has shut out the greed of her soul, Scoffs at scarcity, rotting and mold. She has given so freely, to the mean and unworthy, She’s so loved that she cannot withhold. She surrendered her fight for control, She has waived every right that she holds. She wiped out all the debts that she’d demanded from others, Cause she knew that she’d owed so much more. You have washed her for the day of her wedding, Promised yourself, by your Spirit abiding. In the earthquakes and war, Lord, can you hear her singing, Her arms are raised high, she is radiant, she is holy, Your beloved is ready. She has torn up her murderous laws, Her comparing and searching for flaws. But you’ve made her so humble, holding others so highly, That her joy has been filled to the full. She took off her pretense for you Lord, She confessed all her shame to you Lord. She came out of her hiding, to be know so profoundly, She's so free she can dance for you Lord. You have washed her for the day of her wedding, Promised yourself, by your Spirit abiding. In the earthquakes and war, Lord, can you hear her singing, Her arms are raised high, she is holy, she is radiant, Your beloved is ready. You can listen to the song here: https://app.box.com/s/h4vqidjlyimlv5tr26zq
Nothing can rip me from God’s hand. Never will I be condemned. My sin or the sin of others will not destroy my place in God’s heart. My current hubris or future moral implosion will not make God’s love waver. I have a bright future, to be a child loved by God in the presence of the God of beauty and God’s people, delighting there with my brothers and sisters, each of us sharing the beauty we see and taste with the others.The potent doctrine of God’s choosing of wicked, broken, sinful people to be a bride for his son, to be Redeemed by the mighty acts of Jesus, to be indwelt by the Spirit, to be inheritors of eternity is the deepest comfort and security of the Christian.
When did the revolutionary doctrine of God’s electing grace first shine the light of your need and God’s love for you? I first learned it reading the great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon, and feasted on it in the writings of St. Augustine and the Protestant Reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin, and the Puritans Jonathan Edwards and John Owen. In seminary I sat under professors like the irenic Dr. Harold OJ Brown who gave me a vision for the the catholicity and practicality of this truth.
Tonight at our church’s Reformation feast we will share stories of how God’s electing love for us in eternity past broke into our life in the present, rescuing and redeeming. And we will laugh, and sing, and probably cry too, and long together for our homeland. The song “What has God prepared?” by Nathan captures that love and longing well.
No eye had seen, The Spirit o’er the waters, The Light no one could enter, The all consuming fire. No ear had heard, The breath of every being, The Word from the beginning, Until the birth of Christ. What has God prepared for those who love him? Who understood, The judge would be our savior, Our King dressed like a beggar, The humbled Great I Am? Who could conceive, That Love would join creation, The Holy incarnation, The final Paschal Lamb? What has God prepared for those who love him? No one had known, So hopeless our infection, So ruined our condition, That we must be reborn. No one foresaw, The righteous being rejected, The wicked being forgiven, The children given a sword. What has God prepared for those who love him?
You can listen to the song here: https://app.box.com/s/7ha4v01r21lmqqhdl47qrs1hhz365zai