Choosy People Choose God

A concept that fascinates me in the scriptures is the idea that God chooses people. 

In the Old Testament, He chose a lot of individuals to do a lot of different things (2 Samuel 6:21, 1 Chronicles 15:2, Nehemiah 9:7), but, overall, He chose the nation of Israel to be His people (Deuteronomy 10:15, Psalm 33:12).

In the New Testament, Jesus chose the 12 disciples (John 15:16). And ever since the resurrection, God has been choosing Israelites and Gentiles alike to believe in Christ and become His sons and daughters (Romans 11:5, Ephesians 1:4-5, Colossians 3:12).

The thing about choosing is God doesn’t have to choose anybody. He isn’t forced or required to show any of us grace or favor. He just does.

And if you are a follower of Jesus, that means God chose you. Personally (1 Peter 2:9).

I can’t tell you why God chose me. It is true there is no good thing in me apart from Him (Psalm 16:2). So I certainly didn’t merit choosing. Quite the opposite. Before God chose me, I was as blasphemous as they came. I denounced Christianity vehemently, used His name in vain frequently, and had no use nor respect for the Church or the Bible.

By all accounts, God shouldn’t have chosen me. 

And by all accounts, He shouldn’t choose you either.

You may not have the sailor mouth I once boasted or the outwardly rebellious heart I once wore like a badge of honor… you might be a “pretty good” person… You might even go to church on occasion… but if you haven’t lived a perfect life by His account, you have a problem. Your imperfections have earned you something… death (Romans 6:23).

More specifically, you’re a dead man walking into eternal separation from God. And so was I. It’s a double whammy, really. You pass through this life having never really lived, blind to the reality of God all around you, never experiencing the joy that is doing life with God. And then you die physically, and you get what you always wanted… eternity without God. I’m sure words don’t do it justice, but John attempts to describe hell as a lake of fire. Those who want nothing to do with Jesus are thrown into that lake for eternity (Revelation 20:15).

Choosy People Choose God
image via arztsamui/freedigitalphotos.net

Unless.

Unless you choose differently.

God didn’t like this idea that all the people He created to know and love Him would be separated from Him eternally on account of sin. So He remedied the situation. Himself. Romans 6:23 says, “The gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The bad news is every single one of us has earned death. The good news is God wants to give us the gift of eternal life – Heaven. 

It doesn’t make sense, honestly, that it works this way… God in the form of Jesus Christ lived a perfect life, volunteered to take the punishment for our imperfect lives, and God the Father accepts that arrangement for anyone who signs up for the deal. I don’t pretend to know how that works. But I’ve experienced it to be true in my daily life through personal interaction with God that wasn’t possible before I accepted Jesus.

God chooses people, yes. But the irony is that He offers each one of us a choice as well. Do we want what we earn, or do we want the gift He offers?

God wants to choose you. Will you choose Him? 

An Undivided Heart

A healthy human heart, biologically speaking, is divided into 4 chambers. Each chamber has a specific purpose – either pumping or receiving blood – essential to the function of the heart. These physical divisions are necessary and good.

image via ddpavumba/freedigitalphotos.net
image via ddpavumba/freedigitalphotos.net

This is what came to mind yesterday when I read Psalm 86:11, “Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.”

An undivided heart… that’s just not natural. Physically or spiritually.

Just as healthy babies are born with hearts literally divided, so they are born with hearts figuratively divided. The spiritual divisions go something like this: three chambers devoted to self – self-preservation, self-gratification, and self-actualization – and one chamber that knows it was meant for something more than self – divine longings one can’t quite put his finger on (Romans 1:20).

The heart is divided. What will that baby – who turns into a child, who turns into a teen, who turns into a young adult, who turns into an old adult (is that PC – old adult?) – pursue? Protection? Pleasure? Purpose? God?

All choices in life revolve around this question. And from the day we are born, our spirits wrestle to put our energy into the “right” thing at the “right” time. (I use quotations because most of the time we determine what is “right” through our fickle emotional filters rather than some concrete source of truth. “Right” is transient to most people, so the term really loses all meaning… I digress.)

Unfortunately, once we become believers, the parts of our divided hearts don’t supernaturally morph into one truly right chamber. We’re still sinners. Accepting Jesus doesn’t change that. So we continue to contend with our “divided heart syndrome” (Romans 7:19), which is what the Psalmist speaks to.

It’s clear David is struggling with the age-old battle between allegiance to self and allegiance to God (Romans 7:22-23). David – the man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22) – still had times when he was drawn toward self, and, necessarily, away from the Lord. David recognized that his temptation to follow after his own passions, as opposed to God’s passions, needed correcting.

So he prayed.

Good thinking there.

David recognized his inability to will himself into having an undivided heart 100% committed to the Lord. No matter how great his intentions may have been, David couldn’t conjure up complete devotion to God on a consistent basis, much less a constant basis, which is what the Lord both requires (Exodus 20:3) and deserves (Revelation 4:11). David knew that degree of commitment couldn’t come from within.

So he asked the Lord to provide it, “…give me an undivided heart…”

And we’re right there with David, too. We don’t have it in us to unfalteringly follow the Lord. Good thing we don’t have to have it in us; He has it in Him. And He’d love to give it to us. Let’s ask Him for it and see what happens.

(For a musical expression of this concept, check out “Two Hands” by Jars of Clay.)

One Benefit of Being a Sinner

Over the weekend, a teacher at my church blew my mind. Allow me to plagiarize him so your mind can be blown too. (It’s okay, he probably read this idea in a book he didn’t write.)

He said when Christ comes back and establishes the new earth, it will not be a “return to Eden” type of situation. Yes, He will wipe out sin, there will be no more pain, etc., but it will be even better than the pre-Fall Eden was.

Why?

Because before the Fall, Adam and Eve were clueless about at least one characteristic of God (and I suspect many more). Without sin in their lives, they were unable to experience God as Redeemer. There was nothing from which He needed to rescue them. All was well.

Not so with us.

Because we’ve committed more sin and experienced more effects of sin than we can quantify, we are perfectly positioned to experience God as Redeemer. And, if we make it to Heaven, we definitely will have experienced God as Redeemer in at least one way: His saving us from the death our sin deserves.

So, when we’re standing there in Heaven, enjoying the complete absence of all things bad and the complete fulfillment of our souls, our memories of our lives on Earth will stand in stark contrast to our experiences in our eternal home. No doubt, our hearts will swell with thankfulness and appreciation of our God, our Redeemer.

I’m taking this idea a step further and saying we don’t have to wait until Heaven to appreciate this aspect of God.

Psalm 130:5 (NIV) reads, “I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.”

Read a couple different translations for different nuances.

“I am counting on the LORD; yes, I am counting on him. I have put my hope in his word,” (NLT).

“I hoped [for] Jehovah — hoped hath my soul, And for His word I have waited,” (YLT).

The psalmist isn’t hanging out in a hard circumstance, playing Solitaire, flipping through a magazine, waiting for God to do something. No, the writer is hopefully expectant of God, confident God will come through, according to His Word.

In other words, the psalmist believes God is the Redeemer. The writer has read about God acting as Israel’s Redeemer in the past. He’s read about God’s promise to be Israel’s Redeemer in the future. He’s choosing to believe God will come through.

We need to do that, too.

God has redeemed us from hard, broken situations in the past. His Word says He is redeeming us from current painful circumstances right now (Romans 8:28). And He will redeem us in the grandest of fashions when Christ returns (Revelation 21).

Count on the Lord. Hopefully expect the redemption His Word promises you.

 

Do You Know Who God Is?

Our pastor challenged us on Sunday to evaluate whether or not we have an accurate view of how holy God is.

The implication is we tend to humanize God and lose awareness of how majestic and grand and wholly above us in rank and perfection He truly is. And when we are not consciously aware of how awesome He literally is, our worship and our morals become lax.

Our pastor stopped there, but my brain did not.

I’ve been wondering how my day-to-day would change if I were more consistently focused on God’s grandeur. If I could be perpetually caught up in the fact that He is GOD – Creator, Sustainer and Savior of the ENTIRE universe – how would my approach to life change?

While I don’t yet consistently think of Him, I have successfully focused on Him for a minute or two before.

After the pastor finished his sermon on Sunday, this song played:

While I sang along, I thought about the passages in Scripture where people saw God. Isaiah, Ezekiel, John… They all tried to describe what they saw, but they lacked the words to accurately convey God. What they did communicate perfectly, though, was the awe and humility they felt in the Lord’s presence.

Upon realizing he was in the presence of the Lord, Isaiah said, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty,” (Isaiah 6:5).

In that moment, Isaiah recognized the depth of his sinfulness and the height of God’s holiness. Isaiah knew he was unworthy to be in the presence of God, and he had a healthy fear of the penalty (death) God could rightfully inflict upon him for being unclean in God’s presence.

In Revelation John attempts to describe his vision of the resurrected Jesus Christ in all His glory. Although John’s similes and metaphors don’t capture precisely what he saw, we know exactly what John felt. He said, “When I saw [Jesus], I fell at his feet as though dead,” (Revelation 1:17). John was OVERWHELMED by Jesus’ presence. His brilliance and grandeur was too much for John to process. Two other times during John’s vision, he falls down in a posture of worship, unable to contain his feelings of awe toward the Lord (Revelation 19:10; 22:8-9).

Ezekiel responds similarly in 1:28, falling facedown when the Lord speaks to him.

These men had a proper perspective of God’s supremacy.

I wonder if, while seeing the seraphs hover around God’s throne, singing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory,” Isaiah fretted about what the Israelites thought about him (Isaiah 6:2-3). As a prophet proclaiming the judgment and wrath of God, Isaiah didn’t have many friends. In fact, he had a lot of folks who would rather kill him than continue to listen to his “message from God” about how God was going to destroy them on account of their sin.

But as Isaiah focused on the true glory of the Lord, his concerns about his popularity and safety probably faded into the background of his mind, if they didn’t fall off his radar completely.

I wonder if, while he was in the presence of the Lord, John worried about loneliness. He was currently exiled on an island, under house arrest, virtually alone. I bet a lot of his needs for fellowship and emotional intimacy with friends and family were going unfulfilled. He may have been a pretty depressed guy, loathing his very existence.

And then he saw the Lord.

While he was in God’s presence, I have a hunch John didn’t give one thought to his problems. I bet his needs didn’t seem so pressing, and his wants probably didn’t feel so dire.

And I’m thinking the same can be true for us.

I’ve experienced flashes of this in my Christian life. For literally a minute or two, caught up in the TRUTH of God’s greatness, I’ve experienced the camera of my soul zoom in on Him while my problems blurred in the background.

In those precious moments, I didn’t think about the problems. I didn’t even seem to notice them much. And when I did catch a glimpse of them, they felt irrelevant. They no longer produced anxiety or despair in my spirit. They were distant… for a couple of minutes.

I think God wants us to experience minutes like these more and more often. Moments of focusing on His greatness need to become the norm in our lives. When we accurately understand the glory of the Lord, everything else in our lives falls into it’s proper place.