God Chooses? (How a zombie apocalypse can bring perspective)
By Pastor Tim Birdwell
4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
The Apostle Paul begins Ephesians with an explosion of praise because of all the blessings we have received in Christ. And the first blessing he recounts is that God “chose us”. It’s an incredible blessing because it makes it abundantly clear that God doesn’t ask you to work your way to him, he works his way to you. HE initiates, HE draws “before the foundation of the world”. So he was planning to come get you from the beginning. And he chooses you, not merely to save you, but to sanctify you, “that we should should be holy and blameless”. This is glorious grace!
However, I know for some of us this blessing doesn’t bring praise, but problems; it doesn’t bring comfort but confusion. And there’s so much to be said about it, but I want to address what I think are the 2 most common questions. They are questions that I personally have wrestled over the course of my walk with God.
1) HOW does God choose? Well notice what it says in the text: He Chose us IN HIM – not IN YOU. You see I think one of the reasons we have issues with God choosing is its so counter to our culture. Just think about it: Everything you receive is based on YOU: Promotion at your job… if YOU work hard enough. Scholarship at your school… if YOU are smart enough. Friendships and relationships… if YOU are nice enough (and you don’t smell bad). In our culture people choose US, based on US. And Paul is saying you are chosen, but it’s not your work, it’s His worth. You’re chosen in Christ. It’s based entirely on who he is and what he has done.
2) WHO does he choose? Well the first thing I would say is, we don’t know. We don’t know who God chooses, but we do know his character. And that’s what we should focus on. Romans 2 tells us God shows no partiality. 2 Peter tells us God desires for all men to be saved. John 3 tells us God so loved the world that he gave up his own son.
You see a lot of times when we have issues with God choosing we see God as this cruel team captain who’s only picking the best and brightest. And we think self-righteously, “If I was in charge I would choose everybody.” But I want you to really consider that, would you?
Imagine a zombie apocalypse (bare with me I think this will help you). It’s not hard to imagine because of The Walking Dead and every other show and movie out these days. You’re in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, who are you grabbing? Everybody’s going to die, who are you grabbing, who are you rescuing and holding close? Your kids, your spouse, the people closest to you? That’s what we see in the shows and if we’re honest that’s what most of us would do when faced with death.
The book of Romans tells us no one seeks God, we all go on our way, and that’s called sin. And the wages of sin, the result of sin is death. Every one of us looks at the Creator and Sustainer of the universe who offers us life, and we dismiss him, ignore him, and rebel against him running toward sure death. You see because of sin we are all in the midst of a spiritual apocalypse, everyone is going to die. And in that moment, God is so good, so loving, so glorious that he doesn’t grab his only Son, he gives him away. In fact not only does he not hold him close, he sends him directly into the war zone of humanity where he dies the death that you and I deserve. So God doesn’t pick the best and brightest, he gives the best and brightest.
He’s not a cruel team captain, he’s a generous Father and you can trust him. Trust that his ways are higher than your ways. Trust that he can run the universe better than you can or would.
And here’s the last point I’d like to make, there is a tension in all of this. There is a tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility that theologians and Christians have wrestled with for centuries. You see it later in chapter 1 of Ephesians, Paul says you are sealed with the Holy Spirit when you hear the gospel and believe. Those are decisions you make and actions you take. You see similar things all over the bible. So what do we do with this tension?
Charles Spurgeon helps us. He says this about the tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility: “They are two lines that so nearly parallel, that the human mind which pursues them farthest will never discover that they converge, but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.”
Spurgeon acknowledges, in our finite understanding of an infinite God, we may never fully understand this tension, but that doesn’t make it any less true. It is a tension that God seems to be satisfied with in His revealed word, and at some point we should be satisfied with it as well.
Many of us struggle with this; I have struggled with this. And no matter where you are on the subject, I would challenge you to go on a journey in Scripture to learn what God has to say about it. But I would also encourage you, as you study it, don’t try to solve it. Rest in God’s character and respond in praise to his glorious grace.