This post originally appeared on Theology Rocks
I grew up with an older brother who perfected his grades, sports skills, and hygiene. He always met our parent’s approval (as I saw it then, of course). I was an overweight, uncoordinated middle-schooler who never brushed my teeth (seriously) and consistently brought home C’s on my report cards. Needless to say, I felt quite worthless. I groped for purpose and acceptance wherever I found myself.
IDENTITY IN CHRIST
After several desperate attempts to find my purpose and nearly giving up, God’s grace invaded my life. “[God] saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began…” (2 Tim. 1:9). God makes much of His children, even calling us His children (John 1:12). He welcomed us even when we were so undeserving (Romans 15:7). Our old sinful selves are done away with (Romans 6:6). In the beginning, God uses nothing to make everything. In Christ He takes a sinful hardened heart that hates God and makes it new and glorious (2 Cor. 5:17), even the very temple of His Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
THE UNREGENERATE DILEMMA
The scriptures do not speak so highly of the state or end of the unbeliever. God’s wrath remains on them because they knowingly suppress the truth. God gives them over to dishonorable passions (cf. Romans 1:18ff). The famous Pauline pearl string proclaims:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.” –Rom. 3:11-18
The unbeliever does not accept the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:14). “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:41-42).
THE CRUCIAL QUESTION
Why am I better? Was I born in the right country? Did I make the right decisions? How can I enjoy the fellowship with God while my neighbor might be cast away from His presence forever? ”
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” –Ephesians 1:3-6
Monotonous squabbling over election tends to squash its unconditional nature. When we ask the question, “what’s better about me?” we are faced with two plausible answers: me or God (these answers would be for a Christian worldview; I don’t mean to commit bifurcation). Did I take the right steps, say the proper magic formula prayer led by our itinerant evangeliclowns, and mount my cheap grace along the hall as trophies? No. Rather, God graciously saved me through His gift of faith, not by what I did (Eph. 2:8-10).
Good orthodoxy leads to orthopraxy. We shall not dance around the depths of unconditional without diving in. “Relevant” is the modish mantra of modern church models… Relevant? Relevant to whom? Culture, or God? In the rave of relevance to the majority culture, local churches reject cultures the majority has set aside. Understanding unconditional pushes us to the ends of the earth. Understanding unconditional says with sincerity, “If Jesus can save me, He can save anyone.”
“What’s better about me?”
Nothing in and of ourselves. But Jesus makes much of us so we can preach the Gospel to those we considered to be nothing.