Make Your Calling and Election Sure…

Note: This blog is both self-contained and the 4th in a series exploring the relationship between Justification and Sanctification. If a preacher were to develop this series into a sermon it could be titled “Working Out What God Has Worked In,” based upon Philippians 2:12. The previous 3 blogs are: The Monster of Uncertainty (Feb 22), All We Need for Life and Godliness (March 7), and Add to Your Faith (March 13). And now for the 4th:

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:10, 11

Just when we are trying to decide whether the people that Peter was describing in 2 Peter 1:9-2:22 were true Christians or not, be brings us back to a self-evaluation. This shows us that Scripture was not given for us to judge others, but to use for our own salvation.

In 1:10-11, we see the mysterious paradox between a belief that our salvation is the result of God’s initiative in our lives and, at the same time, it engages our action. In other words, while God is sovereign in salvation, he also calls each of us to make sure that our character matches our confession and our behavior matches our beliefs. Most of us will admit that we do not live out our faith to the extent that we should, but that is different than choosing to turn a blind eye to the life we are living.

How do we “add to our faith?” How do we cooperate with God in this sanctifying makeover that produces real change in our lives and makes us productive and useful to God? It results from the choices we make as we respond to the circumstances of life. Either we cooperate with God with our new nature or we adopt attitudes and behavior consistent with our sinful nature. Paul addresses the Corinthians as those who have the Spirit but who do not live by the Spirit. He calls them “worldly” and behaving as if they are “merely human.” (1 Cor 3:3)

Let’s use an example: You are a professing Christian and because of the Covid-19 pandemic you are laid off from work and could possibly lose your job. We might want to expand this example to include retirees whose retirement incomes are being threatened by the wackiness of the stock market and who are at the same time the most vulnerable to the virus. Your life is filled with uncertainty, fear, disappointment, disillusionment, etc. and you may be entertaining doubts as to why your loving God has allowed this to happen to you. I don’t think being a Christian makes us immune to such emotions or thoughts—reading the Psalms will convince you of that.

However, it is what you do with these doubts and fears that shows your true colors. You have a choice either of continuing to build your theology upon your own sinful response to pain and uncertainty (like the rest of the world), or to use the resources that God has already given you by his Spirit to trust Him. This trust does not consist in stifling your emotions, or stoically resigning yourself to the will of Allah, but in allowing those emotions (fear, disappointment, etc.) to drive you to your knees and cry out to your Heavenly Father for comfort, help, provision, and to seek the support of the community of faith—as “virtual” as it is now.

It is recognizing that God is at work in the darkness of difficulty, developing the muscles of faith that are rarely exercised on sunny days. Ultimately, you will grow from this, because God will show you that your life is not defined by your work or by the amount of money you have in the bank, but by your trust in Him. It is a response like this that will help you “to make your calling and election sure” and to give you the certainty of your salvation and of your security in Christ.

I must reiterate that as followers of Christ we will continue to stumble and bumble our way through the struggles of life. But because God has given us all we need for life and godliness, and because we have the Holy Spirit who helps us apply these resources to our character development, we should be able to recognize movement and progress in our pilgrim heart. And such progress should give us the assurance that our faith is real and that eternal life is ours.

So, look for God in your struggle…He is at work. Also, look to God in your struggle…He will never leave you or forsake you!

Does God Delight in You?

The writers of the Psalms certainly anticipated the gospel. However, I have grown increasingly aware that their perspectives on a relationship with God reveal distinct differences from ours.

In Psalm 17:15,the Psalmist declared that his contentment in life did not come from wealth but in knowing that all was well with his soul and God.  I agree; but how does one know that things are well; how do we evaluate this? By our feelings of contentment?

In Psalm 18:19, a buoyant David gave thanks to God for victory over his enemies by saying, “He led me to a place of safety, for he delights in me.” How did he know that God delighted in him? In the next verse he said, “The Lord rewarded me for doing right, and being pure. For I have followed his commands and have not sinned by turning back from following him.” Is our righteousness the basis of God’s delight?

I don’t know about you but I have a hard time thinking that God delights in me. I also struggle with evaluating my relationship to him on the basis of how I feel or how much he has seemed to bless me. I am not being cynical or wormy here; just being honest about my own sinful nature and the fickleness of my feelings.

I think that this is where our reading of the Psalms (the whole Old Testament) needs to be informed by the gospel. Contentment and confidence in my relationship with God comes only when I realize that Christ died for me and that I am joined to him by faith (in Christ). Because God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for me, I have the confidence of knowing that I belong to him and that he will care for me unsparingly (Romans 8:32). Again, any confidence that I have is centered on Christ’s work for me and that I am in him by faith.

Martin Luther’s quest for certainty in his relationship with God was not based upon his performance or his feelings. In fact, the more he “performed” the more he became aware of his own sinfulness and hypocrisy, and the more he was terrified of God’s righteous judgment. He kept vigils, prayed, fasted, beat himself with whips, nearly froze to death in the unheated chambers of the monastery of the Augustinian Hermits where he lived as a monk. His six-hour confessionals only convinced him that even being sorry could be self-centered. Through the reading of Scripture he became convinced that his only certainty of God’s love for him came through faith in Christ work for him on the cross.

In summary, the Psalmist’s confidence of being a delight to God seems to rest on his sincerity and obedience. My confidence and certainty of God’s love for me rests upon the work of Christ on the cross. Thus when I wonder how God views me, gospel-thinking goes: I am in Christ and since God delights in his Son, therefore, God delights in me. I will hang onto this even when my own heart condemns me for God’s promises are greater than  the opinions of my heart.