The Christian Faith, One Word at a Time: Chosen
10th Sunday after Pentecost
August 13, 2017
Lincoln Heights Lutheran Church
The Christian Faith, One Word at a Time: Chosen
Dear friends in Christ,
I feel a little sorry for today's college students. There are so many choices to make, such as, what to study. Drake University has over 70 majors. Iowa State has over 100. Their admissions website says that “undeclared” is the most popular major. It is a difficult choice to make. And if a student sticks with their choice and graduates, they then have to choose where to apply for a job. But this is where the student's choices come to an end in a way. The job applicant can choose to apply at any company but the company gets to choose who to hire.
Life is full of choices, and not only during your teens and twenties. Some choices we control. Many we don't. The apostle Paul tells us about a choice we had nothing to do with and yet has everything to do with us. It is the choice our God made even before time began, a choice God made evident to us in this life and a choice that has eternally good consequences for us. Our word today is “Chosen.” We were chosen by God before time began, during time and for all time.
Romans 8:28–30 (NIV84)
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 likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
The first part of Romans 8:28 is probably one of the most well known and often quoted parts of the Bible. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” Christians use this verse to comfort those who are going through really bad times on this earth. God will work this out for your good. It is a wonderful promise from our loving God. Very often, though, those who quote this verse leave off the last phrase of verse 28 as well as verses 29 and 30. We focus on these verses today because these give the reason why we are confident that God will work out all things for the good of his believers.
Those who love God are those who believe in Christ, those with faith alone in Christ alone. Paul says that believers have been “called according to his purpose.” God's purpose is to save people from sin and eternal death. God called you to faith in Jesus according to that purpose. It was his choice to save us. He is the chooser. We are the chosen. If you are applying for a job, a good employer will choose people who are qualified for the job. If I applied to be an art teacher in the public schools, I hope they would check out my artistic abilities first. When they see my fantastic stick man drawings, they would surely reject my application. I'm not qualified to be an art teacher.
Thanks be to God that he does not choose people for eternal life based on our qualifications. We don't have any qualification for being a child of God. We have zero goodness in ourselves. In fact, we were only evil all the time even from conception and birth. And our God says, “I choose you and you and you.” Employers have been know to check out applicant's social media posts before hiring them. God certainly knows what you say on social media. He has read your emails, listened to your phone calls, and heard your secret discussions with friends. In his foreknowledge, he knew all the evil you would do. He knows your past sins, current sins and future sins. And he still chose you to be his own. That is grace. That is God's undeserved love for us sinners. We were chosen by God and it was all his gracious choice.
Paul tells us that this choice was made a long time ago. We were predestined. Paul tells us in Ephesians that we were chosen before the creation of the world. This should be an amazing comfort for us. God chose us to be saved before the beginning of time. It had nothing to do with me thinking, doing or saying the right thing. I did not choose him, for the choice was made even before God created the first two humans on this earth.
Please note that Paul does not say anything about God predestining some people to hell. There is no place in the Bible that tells us that God has chosen some people who will not be saved. Instead the Bible tells us that every person you meet in this life is someone God wants to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Maybe you are the person God will use to bring the truth of God's grace to them in time.
Though God predestines his believers to be saved before time began, there is a time in this life when God's choice is made known to you. There is a time when God gives you faith to hold to the promise God made to save you.
And those he predestined, he also called;
There is a specific moment in time when you went from unbelief to faith in Christ. When God calls someone to faith, conversion happens in an instant. This is not to say that the first time someone is confronted with their sins and presented with their Savior they will instantly believe. A person can reject and resist the call of the Holy Spirit to believe. However, this call to faith, conversion, is not a process in which someone believes 10% and then 25% and then 80% and then 100% that Jesus is their Savior from sin and hell. Either you believe or you don't. The call to faith happens in one particular moment in time when an unbeliever becomes a believer.
God also gave us a special way in which he calls sinners to faith. The gospel connected with water. In baptism, the Lord promises forgiveness, faith and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Baptism is that moment in time when God choice from before creation is made known in this time. In a moment a person goes from sinner on the way to hell to a forgiven child of God going to heaven.
Whether you know the exact time you were called to faith or not, the important thing is that you were called to faith. Paul tells us:
Those he called, he also justified.
Justification by faith is the central doctrine of the Scriptures. A sinner is called to faith and that faith connects them with the justification accomplished by Christ. Jesus died for sins and was raised to life for our justification. God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God has justified the world. He has declared the world not guilty of sin. And when we are called to faith, we are connected with this declaration of “not guilty.” God does not count my sins against me. God has declared you not guilty through faith in Jesus.
On the first night of VBS last week, we looked at the account of Paul and Silas in prison. They were singing hymns and praying until about midnight. For God caused an earthquake which opened the doors of the prison and broke the chains. But the prisoners did not escape. The jailer was so overcome by these events that he asked Paula and Silas, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas tell him, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” There was nothing to do. Jesus had already paid for his sins. Through this simple call to faith, the jailer believed and was saved along with his household. What a moment in time it was for them. They had the assurance that God is not counting their sins against them, that God has declared them not guilty, that they were chosen by God then and forever.
For All Time
Those he justified, he also glorified.
Our focus during VBS this year was the Reformation and especially five truths rediscovered during the Lutheran Reformation. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Paul has covered these three well in our short section from Romans today. Scripture alone is another truth of the Reformation because we can trust only the Bible to give us the truth. Our fifth “alone” is Glory to God alone. Everything we do in heaven will be giving glory to God as we worship him. So also, everything we do on earth should be done to God's glory.
He chose us to be predestined to be saved. All glory to God. We had nothing to do with God's choice.
He called us to faith. We had nothing to do with this either. All glory to God.
He justified us. We did not help in any way. All glory to God.
And now Paul says that God is glorifies us. What!? It is supposed to be the other way around. Yet God has set believers apart in this world as his children. He will glorify us with renewed bodies in heaven. He will take away all sorrow and pain. He will give us joy without end. We get to live in the presence of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit forever. He will bring us to the glories of heaven and because he will do this we give him all the glory now as we will then.
Whatever choices you may be facing now, whether in school, work, family or others, remember God's choice. You were God's choice. Make your choices, trusting that God will work out all things for the good of those he chose.
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