Yesterday we, in the United Sates, celebrated Thanksgiving. It is traditionally a time of year to gather with family and friends over a large meal and create and share memories together. I usually describe it as a “warm” time of year. A time to think (hopefully) and reflect on all that we have to be thankful for.
As believers we have a lot to be thankful for, in addition to all of the material comfort we have here in the States. I would like to take a few moments to reflect on two items in particular and leave you (and me) with a challenge.
1. Be Thankful That You are One of the Elect
Scripture is quite clear: “So then…[God] has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills” (Romans 9:18). Prior to that, Paul writes in chapter 8: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (vv. 29-30). So, while God loved the world so much that he sent his Son (John 3:16), Christ’s mission was not to save the entire world from their sin. No, Christ’s mission was to redeem those whom he predestined to redeem through his death on the cross.
Those who are saved, those who have put their faith in Jesus and have accepted the gift of Salvation, are commonly referred to as the “Elect.” The elect are his Church, and his Church is who he died for (Eph. 5:25; John 10:15; 15:13; 11:52; Acts 20:28). I encourage you to be thankful for this. Be thankful that it is “not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy” (Rom. 9:16) that you are saved from eternal separation from him. If it were left up to you, no matter how good you think you are (righteousness based on works, see Rom. 9:30-33), you would ultimately fail, for “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (10:4, see also v. 9). It is by faith that you have been saved. Remember: those who he predestined he also called, and those he called he also justified (8:29). Take time today to reflect on this truth and pour your heart of thankfulness out to God because he saw fit choose you “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph. 1:4).
2. Be Thankful for the Freedom of Religion Enjoyed in the U.S. (but beware of the challenge you face)
Here in the States we enjoy an extremely safe place to practice our faith. We are not persecuted openly for attending church, nor are we told that we cannot practice our faith. Christians in the U.S. ought to be thankful for this freedom of religion that we have. Although it was not the only reason for the early settlers to come to the New World, freedom from the Religion of the Crown in Great Britain was one of the reasons. They sought to settle in a land that was open to many different religions, a land where there was little to no persecution for one’s beliefs. While there are obvious downsides to this, it has allowed Christianity to spread from coast to coast in America and also in other places of the world. So while we recognize that accepting every religion may have consequences, we are thankful for the freedom we have to worship our Lord and God and to spread his Gospel to every person that we are able to without physical harm.
Do not take the above paragraph for granted. I implore you to not become comfortable and lazy in the freedom you have. Also, because of the doctrine of predestination and the Sovereignty of the Gospel spoken of in the section above, you are not allowed to ignore and disobey the command given to us by Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
Yes, God has predestined a certain number of his creation to be justified by the blood of Jesus. He has also predestined that those he justified would also preach and evangelize. Take a moment and look with me at Romans 10:14, “But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”
Divine sovereignty does not give an excuse to not be a faithful witness. “How are they to hear without someone preaching?” Understand the human responsibility in that. God’s predestination does not negate our responsibility. Please heed this warning and take your election seriously.
As Christians we are thankful for the justification we have through Christ and for the responsibility we are given to “make disciples of all nations…baptize…[and] teach” (Matt. 28:19-20).