Ephesians 1:5,6: “He predestined us…through Jesus Christ.”

Predestination was never meant to be a doctrinal club used to batter people’s acknowledgements of God’s sovereignty. Rather, the message of God’s love preceding our accomplishments and outlasting our failures was meant to give us a profound sense of confidence and security in God’s love so that we will not despair in situations of great difficulty, pain, and shame.

God Knows What it is like to have Problems/Pain

We have a king who has suffered. Hebrews 2:10 says, “In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.” This does not mean Jesus was flawed and had to be purged or put right. It means that He needed to be equipped or qualified to be our Savior. He needed to know what it was like to be human. He needed to be one of us.

Jesus didn’t go straight to being crowned. To be our Savior, He could not even go straight from His baptism to the cross. He had to experience problems and pain so that He could sympathize with us in our problems and pain.

We worship Jesus. Rightly so! He is our King and God! But there is a danger that we can end up thinking of Him as something other than human, or as super-human, as though He floated through His years on earth, impervious to the kinds of tensions and issues that we face each day. No! Jesus is as human as we are.

What does this mean? It means we can approach a God who knows, who understands, who listens, and who helps. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” You are not coming to a king who knows nothing of your life. You can talk to God about your problems and pain because He knows what it is like to have problems and pain.

My Heart is Dead if I Have No Concern

Surveys have shown that most Christians think of their faith only in terms of “Jesus and me.” Love for the lost, concerns for the evils of society, the plight of the poor, the pervasive trap of illiteracy for 2/3 of all people, the injustices of racism and materialism are all too often deemed the social causes of “bleeding heart” liberals.

Yet to know Christ as God intends, I must realize that without concern for the plight of all persons, my heart deadens to the Word of God for me. Jesus said that whatever we do for the least of his people, we do for him (Matthew 25:40). I cannot dishonor him by shunning or disregarding any of his people, and at the same time believe that my heart will still fully experience his.

We Are Not God’s Foster Children

To paraphrase Ephesians 1:5, “We’ve been adopted as God’s children.”

Adoption is a legal procedure which secures a child’s identity in a new family. God didn’t choose to be our FOSTER parent. We don’t get kicked out of the family because of our behavior.  In His infinite kindness, God made us a permanent part of His family. Nothing can undo the legal procedure that binds me to Christ. He died to redeem me. He signed the adoption papers with His blood!

Trust Jesus more as Savior than Follow as Example

When we face temptation we are called to follow the example of Christ. We are to respond with faith. But our ultimate hope is not in our ability to follow the example of Jesus. Only Jesus is consistently faithful. First and foremost we do not follow Jesus as our example. Rather we trust Him as our Savior. He is the faithful One, and we are faithful in Him.

When temptation comes, we seek to resist like Jesus. But when we succumb (and we will), we can look to Jesus. We can remind ourselves that God considers us faithful because we are in Christ, the faithful One.

What’s the Church For?

The Church doesn’t exist in order to provide a place where people can pursue their private individual spiritual agendas and develop their own spiritual potential. Nor does it exist to provide a safe haven for people to hide from the wicked world and ensure that they themselves arrive safely to a heavenly destination.

The New Testament seems pretty clear that through the Church God will announce to the wider world that He is indeed its wise, loving, and just Creator. And that through Jesus He has defeated the powers that enslave it. And that by His Spirit He is at work to heal it.

The Church exists, in other words, for what we sometimes call “mission:” to announce to the world that Jesus is Lord. This is the “good news,” and when it’s announced it transforms people and cultures.

Who is your King?

Israel demanded a king. Samuel had to appoint a king. We demand a king of our own lives and must appoint one. Who is king over our lives? Who or what will have our ultimate allegiance? It might be a person or ideology. It might be material possessions or ourselves–comfort, power, or pride. There may be a number of things competing for lordship. But something will rule our hearts. How will we decide?

We often choose by sight, not by faith. In 1 Samuel “people looked at the outward appearance.” As far back as the Garden of Eden, Genesis 3:6 tells us, “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.”

The good king is not the “best looking,” but the one with the humblest heart (Matthew 11:28-29). “Submit to my rule,” he says, “for I am lowly and so my rule is not oppressive. It is light. It is easy. So you will find rest for your souls.”

That’s the king I would like to choose. Some days I do. Some days I don’t. But some day we’ll all be bowing to Him.

A Prescription for Character-Building

Here’s a simple little prescription for character-building: carve out a little time for silence everyday.

Here in our noisy 21st century world, silence is highly underrated. Many of us can’t seem to walk from the front door to the car without a cell phone or an iPod in our ear. But, if we let all the distractions of a clamorous society separate us from God’s peace, we do ourselves a profound disservice. When I make time each day for quiet reflection with God, I’m rewarded.