|Photo: Tom Curtis|
Being a Christian since I was six years old, I guess it was inevitable that I should take God's Grace for granted. I know absolutely that God has a purpose for everything and that includes me. So, I was sitting there feeling incredibly sorry for myself... trying to pray and realizing that my prayers weren’t even getting off the ground. Not, because there was unconfessed sin, but because I was focusing on my depression rather than on God's grace.
Have you heard of Tony Evans? He wrote a most enlightening book called Totally Saved. I think this is a must read for every Christian because we really DO need to know why we believe what we believe. He states:
A Christian can't have a casual, long distance relationship with the Savior and then expect to find grace in [the] time of need.
What? God is always there uplifting those bent beneath their loads and lifting the fallen!
Yes. But it isn't the same thing at all. Think about it a moment. The Grace we receive when we accept Jesus into our hearts is the kind that is available to all who believe the LORD. The kind of Grace that Tony Evans is talking about is the perpetual, continual coating and blessing of God to those who serve Him gladly. In a Greek way of saying it, Gracing, God graces us. Blessing He blesses us. It is the same as the continual forgiveness for our past sins, for sins of the present and sins of the future. It is a state of being action. In essence, Tony is talking about a conditional state secured only by our closeness to our LORD.
Our personal relationship with God is a Two Way street. It begins, truly, when we draw near to God. It is possible to have salvation and still be casual with God. That happens when we are still very immature in Christ. Some folks never grow up which is why Peter tells us in his last letter, his last words,
2Pe 3:18 But grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
Grow in grace and knowledge. This is because without a solid understanding of what Grace is, we can't live the Christian life. Without Grace, we can't Live... really live.
It is impossible to try to live the Christian life under our own power. We just can't do it.
This is where freedom kicks in. Because we can't do it, God steps in with all His grace, all His power, all His might, all OUR willingness to allow Him free reign in our lives and that is the only way we can really live the Christian life.
Resting in Him is not sitting on our duffs eating bon bons and watching soaps all day. Resting in Him is letting go of the ungodliness, the worldly sirens and living through Christ's power, energy, holiness, strength, humor and blessings and Grace. Total Freedom! Is that hard to do? It is unless you decide to do it.
What does that mean, exactly?
God made an irreversible decision to love us. It had nothing to do with feelings and everything to do with a decision because we certainly were not worthy of love, didn't deserve it. Yet, while we were yet sinners, Christ decided to die for us so that we might live. He looked beyond the shame of the cross to the joy beyond (Heb 12). It was a decision.
We cannot earn it. It is a gift freely given and a gift that is offered to all.
So... what does election have to do with all this? Well, the first thing to look at is that God shut us all up in sin. (Rom 11:32). That means that there is no way out for any of us on our own. We can't work our way out, we can't jump out and if we die there, we stay in sin.
Grace happened. Grace was the plan all along. Compare Ezekiel 33:11 "God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked," and Psalms 116:15 "God takes great pleasure in the death of the saints." [shock] Now... 2 Peter 3:9 God didn't purpose that all should perish but that all should come to repentance.
Jesus said in John 3 that the Light came into the world, but men loved darkness better than the Light for their deeds were evil. This is why they fail to believe Jesus. They just don't want to. There is all kinds of evidence God means what He says, but men love their own selves, their own pleasure more than they do the Light. The Lost are not lost because God chose for them to be lost... the Bible never says anywhere that the lost are lost because they are NON-elect. They are lost because they choose not to believe. John 3:18 "the one believing in Him is not condemned; but the one not believeing is condemned already."
That is... those who respond are placed in Christ. Ephesians 1 emphasizes this quite explicitly. The election is centered in the perfect life, the death and the resurrection of Christ. It is His work that benefits us and it came to us through God's Grace. In fact Grace is a Person, not an action or a thing or a feeling. God never sat in Heaven creating babies one for heaven and one for hell. The gift freely offered must be freely accepted.
The message of the Cross most definitely is foolishness to those who are perishing because they put their faith in worldly things rather than in godly things. They do not understand. This does not mean that God is withholding understanding, it means that the lost do not ask for understanding...actually, that isn't it, either. The Lost are not even interested in understanding because their faith is focused in a different direction. Their faith is focused on stuffing everything of this world into that God-sized hole trying to fill it and find some sort of satisfaction for the hunger and thirst that rage within them, when the only thing that will fill it is God Himself. James is explicit: if you do not have wisdom, ask for it; you do not have because you do not ask.
The Bible is unmistakable. God loves all peoples. He loved the world. He gave His Son. Whoever believes will have eternal life. The quality of life begins when one believes God. It does not begin after physical death for we are created eternal creatures (our souls are eternal) to live with Christ or to live in torment. It is your choice. Choose Life and above all choose Grace.