I didn’t plan to write about whether God chooses us (election, predestination) or whether we choose him (free will, determinism).
Today, I was going to write about other choices.
But I awoke and sat upright thinking of the words of God through Joshua, “Choose you this day whom you will serve.” It was early in the morning, and might I add, I rarely awaken fully, sit upright with scripture on my brain early in the morning.
I do believe that the absolute answers about God are found in the Bible and that He, through the person of the Holy Spirit, teaches and reveals these answers to anyone who comes to the Word seeking.
(What I just said there are my beliefs and utterly frame my thinking when it comes to God. I believe in searching out other texts and teachings, but ultimately, God’s word is the shizz and the Holy Spirit can teach anyone who wants to know.)
So here is the line of dots, from Old Testament to New Testament connected to what God says about choosing us:
Long, long ago, there lived a man, not really searching for the meaning of life or hoping to find a religion that would give him peace of mind when he laid his head on his pillow each night.
He wasn’t searching for answers or looking for intentional community. He was trying to carve out a bit of life in the scrabble of some middle-eastern settlement. I guess he was trying to find a good, child-bearing woman and some sheep to build his flocks. Perhaps he wanted what everyone else seemed to want: a wife, some strong sons, a tent, food to eat, a bit of security and the courage to live each day in the face of whatever came. His name was Abram.
Abram was a descendent of Noah, who was a descendent of Adam, the first person, according to the Bible (which I repeatedly use for information, because I’m a Christian and that’s what we do) so, Abram had an idea of God, according to storytelling tradition.
God stepped into Abrams life with flair in Genesis 12, saying (and I paraphrase), “Leave everyone you know, but take your wife, and leave your home country. This will work out, I promise. I’ll show you the land and give you what I dream for you: you’ll be a great, mighty nation, blessed in every way and as a bonus, I, the God of the universes, will be on your side and bless you always. Because of you, because of me, all people on earth will be blessed.”
Huge deal, big promise.
People who like to toss around multi-syllabic words call this the Abrahamic Covenant.
Fast forward several hundred years. This is easy to do by skipping over Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Numbers in your Bible (and most of us do that a lot, but I tell you, there is good stuff in there). Joshua is a fun book to read if you’re a guy or like movies and books with a lot of battles. Joshua came after Moses (remember Charlton Heston?). All those pages we just skipped in the Bible held the narrative accounts of how over and over again, God was proving himself faithful to fulfill the promise he gave to Abraham and his family tree. They also talk in detail about the Law (called the Mosaic Law) and the way to worship God according to the Law and how these people, the Hebrews were God’s chosen people.
All God asked in response was that Abraham and his descendants worship and obey Him, the singular, unseen God.
This doesn’t sound like it should be that hard, right?
But ask yourself, what did you do this morning: take care of your physical self, check your phone, play your favorite game on your phone, check your email, launch into the demands of your schedule?
Yeah, we worship whatever is in hand or in front of our face at any given moment.
God asked of those old, desert men: worship me.
It’s harder than it sounds.
So back to Joshua. He was standing in the very promised land that God wanted to give Abraham’s people.
They had witnessed the might of God working on their behalf all over that corner of the world. And God spoke through Joshua (chapter 24), saying (and I paraphrase), “I chose you people. I chose you over and over again and I blessed you and rescued you and fought for you. I have done, am doing and will do everything I’ve ever promised. I will choose you forever, because that’s the kind of God I am. I will never, ever stop choosing you even when you don’t choose me back.”
And Joshua ended the speech saying, “Throw away your gods, little “g”, and serve (obey and follow and worship) Big “G” God. Do what you want, serve whom you will, but God has done enough to convince me and my family: we’re serving GOD!”
With that, he picked up a large stone and set it near a tree, making that a memorial stone, a witness to the nation’s response that they would indeed, serve God only.
Of course, the rest of the Old Testament tells us in a million ways, how the people retracted from their promise to choose God back and all the ways God loved and provided and disciplined them, still promising to pave their way into eternity with him (which will happen, if you know your eschatology).
Skip over all those books (but do read them sometime!) and stick your thumb in Matthew 16:18. This is the New Testament; this is the part about Jesus.
God so loved all of us in this world that he came to be one of us frail and fleshy humans so that he could speak to the Hebrew people in a way that they could see him. This is called incarnation. All of the Bible, is hinged on this act, this miracle of God– the incarnation.
Jesus is speaking to Simon, and says, “On this Rock I will build my church.”
He gave Simon a new name, Peter, which means little “r” rock (pebble, stone) so that Peter wouldn’t get any grand ideas about himself and then pointed to Himself and said (paraphrased again), “I’m the “R” Rock. I am the rock in the desert under that tree, I am the witness and the promise and the savior and the blessing. I am everything God meant when he visited Abraham and Moses and all the rest. I AM. Now build my church. Be the first little rock among rocks.”
Because Jesus made/became/fulfilled the promise of salvation that was so perfectly pictured in the scene in Joshua 24.
This is so exciting! You see, dear pebble: God’s done it all!
He’s done the calling and the promising, the providing and the blessing; he stood ahead as God to be worshipped and lay down his life as the sacrifice that made our sin, our perpetual and proverbial failure, a total non-issue in the holy sight of God.
“When you were dead in your sins…God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14
He laid out the Way, paved the Way, provided the Way, led the Way. He is the Way, the Gate, the Sacrificial Lamb, the Reward, the Blessing. God did it all – and he chose YOU!
The relationship with God and Israel illustrates the story for each one of us.
Each one of us is minding our own business, scuffling about in the dirt, hoping for a little satisfaction in life and God comes blazing in with incredible promises: I choose you! He’s excited, jumping up and down. Come on! This is gonna be great! C’mon, c’mon, c’mon!
He tugs at your hand and your heart and what do you do?
What do you do?
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put in effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment – to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
In him we were chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we who were first to hope in Christ might be for the praise of his glory,
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.”
Can I get an amen?!
This is ALL of us, baby. Any of us who will choose him back. This is no contradiction, no theological debate of semantics. This is a LOVE story. God’s love story. My love story.
Choose him back – let it be your love story, too. Because God chose you.
This great truth from Ephesians, this story of God and Abraham, this moment with the rock in the desert when Joshua made his choice, this conversation with little “r” rock, Peter, this is all for you, and me, and our neighborhood and our world and every beating heart in every human on this planet.
You also were included in Christ. You were chosen.
This “us”? This is all of us. Not a few, but the multitude.
God is never stingy in love, in grace, in redemption.
He shouts across the eons of time and whispers into your heart: I choose us.
He is in love with you. In love he did all this – for you. In love.
And all he asks arms open, knocking at your heart’s door: Choose Me Back?
I hope as you read these words that you are unable to contain God’s immense love for you, that you can see that you are included in the “us” — that God had you in mind all along. There are many things that push for our attention, many places where we seek approval and acceptance. God’s approval is never conditional on our worthiness. He made us and seeks us and calls us worthy and made us worthy through Jesus Christ. Will you agree with him and say, “I choose us.”?
My friend, Jennifer Lee, has written a book (coming out April 1) about understanding, accepting and living in the preapproved status that God gave her. I’ve read chapter 1 and, honestly, although this is her story, it’s all our story.
We are chosen, pre approved, loved. Check out her book:)