Friday, May 22, 2015

Identity in Christ - 23 (Elect)

The term, “elect,” has gotten difficult to understand. Largely, this is due to its association with the theology of John Calvin. Most of the people who use the term are followers of John Calvin.
First, I am not a follower of John Calvin. I probably would not use the term as he did. To be 100% honest, I am not sure I even understand what he meant by it. Second, the Bible does use the term. In the original language, it means “chosen”.
Jesus told a story to illustrate what his kingdom was like. There was a king, who was hosting a big party. He planned and prepared for a long time. He worked on the guest list, the decorations and the menu. He consulted with the chef. He assigned and delegated. He sent the invitations. Finally, when everything was ready, he sent another message to everyone on the guest list. And nobody came. So, he sent waves of servants to those he invited. And they either ignored the servants or, in some cases, abused them.
So, the king told his servants to go out and invite everybody else. And they came. But some people did not dress appropriately. So, when the king saw one of those, he had them ejected from the party.
Jesus ended the story with this punchline: “Everybody is invited. Not everybody is chosen.”
I am always a little leery of convoluted explanations of Jesus’ stories. Most of his stories were parables, that is, stories with a punchline, or only one point to them. But he did tell some allegories. That is, stories where the characters were symbolic of something else. And I do think this one is allegorical.
It is pretty easy to see God as the king, those on the quest list as Israel, and everybody else as “everybody else.” The party becomes the kingdom of God.
So, God chose Israel to become part of his kingdom. He sent his servants to invite them, but they did not come. They chose not to follow, or give their allegiance to God. So, he invited everybody else. And there was a huge response. Some people wanted to be part of God’s kingdom, but they did not do so in an appropriate manner. Since, I referred to following God above, the initial conclusion would be “not appropriate” means “not wanting to follow.”
  • God’s Perspective
God invited Israel into his kingdom, to represent him to the world. For some reason, they consistently chose not to follow him. (To be sure, some individuals did. En masse, as a nation, they did not.)
So, God invited a different group of people (everybody else) to be his kingdom and his representatives. Anyone who responded to his invitation and chose to keep his ways, he let them come into and stay at  the  “party”. God’s chosen (God’s elect) are people, who come to God, give him their allegiance, set their hearts on him and in obedience to his ways.
At least, according to this story. I can say I know how this all plays out in relationship to God's omniscience. But, in relationship to this story, God's chosen are those who choose God.
God's love is given to everyone. God's heart is focused on everyone. But not everyone is a member of his family. That's not God's choice. That's the person's choice. God nudges, pokes, whispers to everyone. Hopefully, he gets someone's attention and that person chooses to start a relationship with the Father, give allegiance to him and join his family.
It was with this intention that God created the world. There should have never been any separation between God and people. And God, on his part, seeks to redeem and reclaim his family.

I have made the point before that God is sold out for his children. He paid an immense price for them. The death of Jesus reveals that the Father will go to tremendous lengths for his children. He went that far, will he withhold necessary provision? Physical or otherwise? Will he not accept and protect those he has chosen? The mark of that choice is the blood of Jesus wiping away our sin, and the Spirit in our hearts -- teaching, revealing, renewing and providing.
  • Living my Life
The extent and solidness of his choice, the all-in nature of his giving, which demonstrates his love and acceptance, ought to provide an amazing freedom and confidence to our living.

It ought to make us fearless in loving people. We ought to become totally transparent and vulnerable. We ought to act with huge faith.

Ultimately, our hearts, faith and love are not big enough. We are , at best, small seeds, germinating, exposing our faces to he sun and rain. Maybe we bear fruit. We take small baby steps of love and faith.

I don't think this worries our father. He celebrates each step, each small victory, each micron of growth. He is patient. He does not watch the failures. He focuses on where we will wind up.

He chose us. He knew exactly what he was getting. And he is not bothered by it in the least.


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