I chose you.

“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.”

– John 15.16

I realize that the topic of predestination, election and God’s sovereignty are ones that quickly ignite passions here in the American Christianity.  We are not comfortable with anyone having authority over us and the concept that God has to awaken us unto salvation rubs against our individualistic narcissistic self determination mindset.

This has struck me as comical, though:

The next day [Jesus] purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip.  And Jesus said to him, “Follow Me.”…Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

– John 1.43, 45

Jesus went into Galilee and found Philip, calling him to follow and become a disciple.  But Philip turns right around and says that he found Jesus.  Andrew said the same thing.  Jesus is fully God, and He went out and gathered His disciples, calling them from their various backgrounds and occupations.  But their response is to tell everyone that they were the ones who did the finding.

Is this all semantics?  Were the newly called disciples just expressing the fact that they met the Messiah?  That they had encountered Him, were following Him, and therefore had “found” Him?  Most likely.  The easiest way to communicate the story is, “We have found Him!”  But the more detailed story would be, “I was out fishing and this man approached me and called me out by name…”  I would probably be more inclined to say, “Guess who I met!”  But, we can understand the statement.  It makes sense, even though it is not the most accurate description of what happened.

There is a popular praise song with the same sentiment:  “I found Jesus”.  Now, if when we say this we mean it in the innocent, non theological form, simply meaning that we met Him, it is harmless.  Praise God for the fact that we have met Him!

But Jesus states so clearly,

“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.”

– John 15.16

Why did He say that?  Why did Jesus, in teaching his closest disciples, make painstakingly clear that He was the one who did the choosing and that they were the chosen ones?  Does it really matter?

Yes.  It does matter.  It matters on so many levels in how we know and understand God, on how we view our salvation, on how we interact with others and on how we live our lives.  If God is just out there, waiting for us to find Him, them He has limited power.  He cannot and does not know the future, He cannot and does not know how everything will turn out, and He cannot and does not have the ability to help or influence us.  If God is sitting around waiting for people to believe, then it is up to us to convince others that the Gospel is true.  The onus lays squarely on our shoulders to draw others unto salvation.  And we have to make our own way, build our own churches and walk in our own strength.

But if Jesus does the choosing and calling, it is only our responsibility to share the Gospel verbally and in action.  God is then the one who breaks the heart of the lost person and draws him to repentance.  God is therefore all powerful and in control of what happens, He consequently does know the future and is in control of what happens.  There is no longer a burden on me to be clever enough to understand everything, to be good enough to receive grace, and to be determined enough to walk according to the faith until the end.  He is the one who works in and through me, and I can rest in confidence that He is indeed perfecting the work in me that He started.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

– Phil 1.6

Does that mean that we are robots?  Does that mean that I am not truly responsible for the actions that I take?  For the sins the I commit or the obedience of faith?  Because if God is sovereign and He has it all in a plan, I do not truly have freedom, right?  Scripture teaches what has come to be known as dual responsibility.  God is in control.  He chooses us, calls us and sets us aside for His service.  And in our minds we think, reason and act and choose to do these things that He has ordained for us to do.  Thus, we are both responsible for our actions.

A good example of this is the selling of Joseph by his brothers into slavery.  The brothers sinned in their hearts.  They hated Joseph and even wanted to kill him.  But one of the brothers convinced them to make a little cash off of him by selling him as a slave.  This was wrong, an sinful.  But it was also God’s perfect and glorious plan to bring Joseph to Egypt, to raise him to second in command over the whole country and to save the tribe of Israel when the land went into a severe famine and had no food for seven years.  Joseph, upon reconciling with his brothers, stated:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

– Gen 50.20

God purposed that the 10 brothers conspire against Joseph and sell him into slavery.  He meant it for good.  But the brothers did it with evil in their hearts and were responsible for their sin.

We see the opposite exemplified by the disciples.  Jesus found them, called them and set them apart to serve, unto the founding of the early Church – which God had planned.  And the disciples, in their early naivete thought that they had done the good of choosing to follow and serve Him.  Jesus wanted them to understand God’s power and authority so that when they encountered trials and persecution, they would rely on God and not themselves.  If it were up to them to persevere and convince others to believe, then they would give up when their lives were on the line.  Ten of the first twelve died as martyrs.  Martyrs do not die for their own strength or beliefs.  They die for something bigger.  And Jesus wanted them to be able to trust in God who would empower them to serve and die well.  In the power of the Spirit.

And isn’t that more comforting?  That God is in control, and not us?  He chose you.  He’s working out His plan in your life.  Paul says that we were Spiritually dead before He breathed life into us and gave us the gift of faith (Eph 2.1, 8-9).  Yes, we are still responsible for the choices that we make.  But they are all a part of His perfect plan which He established before creation (Eph 1).

choice

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