John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.
So, do we have a choice in believing in Jesus, following Jesus, being forgiven and reconciled to God, securing eternal life?
Or does God chose us. Do people only come to Jesus and open up their hearts to Him because God draws them and gives them to Jesus.
Although theologians have been debating this subject for decades and more, many Christians I know have found comfort living in the tension of this paradox, with their answer being Yes and Yes. Both.
Salvation, reconciliation and eternal life in heaven is a gift, one given to us whether we deserve it or even want it. But if we fail to accept the gift– or deliberately choose not to open it–then we will not realize its benefits. God is sovereign and is the only one able to give such a gift, and we are responsible for our choice in receiving and unwrapping the gift. Yes and yes. Both.
And so, maybe instead of wrestling with this concept — trying to crawl into the mind of God to grasp fully his plan, goals, steps and strategy –would it be better for us to observe the heart of God and get a real sense of his character, love, motivation and intent for humankind.
The first approach will more than likely stop short of certainty, confusing us in the least. And at its worst, this approach could distract us from the real steps of faith. The second approach may have a better chance of leading us to a place of awe, devotion and security.
So let’s observe the heart of God by asking ourselves a couple of questions:
Why is it important to understand that God chooses people for his purposes?
The fact that God “chooses” people means that his eyes are on us. He is actively working through history and even now to draw people to Him. God approaches, acts, stoops down. He knocks, invites and pursues. The fact that we are alive is based on a choice and action of God. He could have scratched the plan at its first misstep in Eden or wiped us all out in Noah’s time. The fact that we have a choice is because God chose not to write us off or leave us alone to self-destruct.
We are probably familiar with a thought like this — God chose me, but what if I don’t choose God? But let’s consider the opposite question: What if I’ve chosen God, but God hasn’t chosen me? What a scary thought. But we don’t have to be scared because it’s impossible. God’s action of choosing came first. That side of the equation has been fulfilled. If you have chosen God–or will choose him now or in the future — it is because He has already chosen you.
Why is it important to understand that God gives people a choice?
This too points to the character of God. He doesn’t want power and command, he wants a relationship. He’s not after a forced compliance, but an accepted adoption. He’s extending an invitation. He doesn’t want a slave, he desires a willing servant.
In one of our discussion groups during this series, the weighty discussion on predestination, turned a corner and collided with evangelism and mission. And it was not only appropriate, but rich. If the awesome truth of God choosing us brings clarity, security and awe, then why wouldn’t we want to share that with others? A Sovereign King and a Powerful Creator chooses them. Couldn’t that truth be a remedy to loneliness, depression, nihilism and more? And there is also then a follow-up urgency for them to know about their choice too, their choice to opt in to God’s plan. We wouldn’t want them to miss unwrapping and accepting His amazing life-saving and life-securing gift?
One woman in our Discussion Group shared a story of a group of native people in Mexico who spoke a less-common language, one that was passed down orally through generations. Missionaries of the past who encountered this people group told them, “God doesn’t know your language.” Whether these missionaries were originally well-intentioned or not, this is a very heart-breaking story. It makes me want to jump on a plane and find anyone who still is affected by this original detrimental message. I want to learn their language, hold their hands and look in their eyes and tell them — “God speaks your language”.
I am afraid that if we embrace predestination without also embracing the whoever found in John 3:16, that our evangelistic and mission efforts will deflate like a slow pin prick in a helium balloon. God loves the world — every nook and cranny. He speaks every language. He sent his Son so that whoever believes in him will not perish. And he’s waiting for each one of us to choose Him back. And thank goodness, He’s much better at patiently waiting than we are.