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Friday, 29 November 2019

John 17 Protected and Kept Safe

This morning we’re reflecting on the final point of doctrine in the Canons of Dordt: the ‘P’ in TULIP, perseverance of the saints. Perseverance of the saints is all about God’s faithfulness to those he’s chosen as his own. Jesus has washed us clean from our sin, but we still sin; we’re tempted and even give in to the power of temptation. The writers of the Canons know this, “Because of these remnants of sin dwelling in them and also because of the temptations of the world and Satan, those who have been converted could not remain standing in this grace if left to their own resources. But God is faithful, mercifully strengthening them in the grace once conferred on them and powerfully preserving them in it to the end.”
We can even sin deeply. We only have to look at the Bible for examples of people who followed God and still did terrible things; David raped Bathsheba and murdered her husband, Solomon built temples for other gods and worshiped with some of his wives there, Peter betrayed Jesus. These are just some of the people who did great sin and God refuses to let go of them. The Canons know that we still sin, but offers hope, “For God, who is rich in mercy, according to the unchangeable purpose of election does not take the Holy Spirit from his own completely, even when they fall grievously. Neither does God let them fall down so far that they forfeit the grace of adoption and the state of justification, or commit the sin which leads to death (the sin against the Holy Spirit), and plunge themselves, entirely forsaken by God, into eternal ruin.”
Jacob Arminius taught that we could be saved and then lose our salvation. According to Arminius, our salvation depends on the choice of man’s will whether or not he or she perseveres in the faith, “those who truly believe and have been born again not only can forfeit justifying faith as well as grace and salvation totally and to the end, but also in actual fact do often forfeit them and are lost forever.” This is why the Synod of Dordt came out so strong against the Arminians, because if we can lose our salvation, what hope do we have in life? This would mean God’s grace is not irresistible or strong enough to keep us safe from Satan.
John 17 is Jesus’ powerful prayer for his disciples and followers and those who will believe in him. Jesus is getting ready to go to the cross for our sins, to wash our sins away through his sacrifice for us; and as he normally does, Jesus goes to his Father first in prayer for strength and guidance. It sometimes puzzles me that Jesus tells God what he’s done since God knows it already, but it’s part of having a close relationship together, that you share the things going on and what you’ve done with those who are really close to you, even if they know already what’s going on.
Jesus tells his Father he’s done everything God asked of him, bringing God glory on earth by finishing the work God gave him to do. Jesus has given eternal life to all those God has given him; he has revealed himself to them and they believe that God has sent Jesus. Now, as Jesus is preparing for his death, resurrection and return to God, he turns to God to ask for protection for all those who are following him, for all those that Jesus has been protecting and keeping safe. This is the image of God that the Bible gives us time after time, a God who protects his people, a God who saves his people, a God who remains in relationship with his people through good times and bad.
But following Jesus isn’t safe, this is why Jesus tells us to count the cost when we decide to follow him. We’re chosen to be sent into the world to tell the world about Jesus; a world that rejects Jesus, a world that hates Jesus and his followers. As followers of Jesus, we’re not hidden in some secret fortress somewhere, instead we’re given the good news of Jesus to bring it into the world, to invite others to join us in following Jesus and accepting him as their own Lord and Saviour. This is why Jesus prays for our protection.
This isn’t about physical safety; it’s about God protecting our souls. When we face hard times or persecution, the one thing we don’t have to fear is that somehow, we might lose our salvation when doubt might come up. God protects us, Psalm 91, “Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” God’s protection means there are going to be hard times when we’re going need him. 2 Corinthians 4, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”
David Platt, pastor of a church in Washington, DC writes of meeting a young teacher, named Alisha, in a remote village in the Himalayas who shared her family’s journey of coming to faith in Jesus. As a child, because she was born on a bad day, her grandfather declared that she was born to worship the devil. So, from the time she was 3 years old, she had to go every evening into a small room outside their house to make an offering to the devil. Then one day a blind man came through their village talking about Jesus, whom they had never heard of before. This blind man came into her family’s home and told them about Jesus and how Jesus has authority over the devil and sin, that Jesus is the one true God who came to conquer sin and the devil and death so we can be forgiven of our sin and restored to a right relationship with the one true God. Her dad soon believed in Jesus and everything changed in their lives. Alisha no longer had to serve the devil. But the village was angry because they all believed that Alisha’s dad had introduced a new god to the village and bad things would happen. They were shunned in the village.
One day Alisha’s parents went to get water and supplies from another village, but they didn’t come back. The village leaders came to the house and told Alisha her parents had died in a rock slide because they followed Jesus, but in reality, the village leaders had stoned them and pushed the bodies down the mountain. Alisha didn’t give up on Jesus and ended up in the city where she found a church to be part of. When she was baptized, her family and the village broke off all relationships with her. She went to school to become a teacher, and now is teaching and sharing the Gospel of Jesus in the very mountains where her parents were martyred for believing in Jesus. God kept her safe, leading her to a church that supported her in her faith and encourages her in the dangerous work of going back to her village and sharing the gospel of Jesus as she teaches their children.
Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary writes, “The ‘P’ (perseverance of the saints) is an important spiritual component of the Calvinist scheme. If you acknowledge your own total inability to save yourself and if you throw yourself on the mercy of a sovereign God, you need the ‘P’ if you are to avoid the fears of divine arbitrariness.” Paul reminds us in Romans 8:32–35He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”
Jesus prays for more than our physical protection; he prays to protect our hearts and minds. Jesus prays for God to sanctify us by the truth, to protect us from the evil one. To sanctify is to set us apart for God’s work, to purify us, and cover us with his presence because we are his. Jesus prays for unity because in unity we find strength, we’re encouraged and built up, as Paul tells the church in Thessalonica. God created us in his image, created us to be in community. Just as God is three in one, so we find our identity and protection together in the family of the church, the body of believers with Jesus as our head, who protects us from the evil one.

Friday, 22 November 2019

Ezekiel 36:22-38 Giving Us a Heart of Flesh

This morning we are reflecting on the fourth letter in TULIP. The “I” stands for Irresistible Grace, which is the beautiful doctrine that points to God’s deep commitment to us and how he reaches out to us. We sing the song, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,” and irresistible grace is all about God making his grace so sweet to us that, while we may fight against it for a time, in the end our hearts are so drawn to Jesus that we find we have no choice but to accept his love for us and commit ourselves to become his followers and children of our heavenly Father.
The heart of the Canons of Dordt lies in the teaching that our faith is a gift from God, as Paul teaches us in his letter to the church in Ephesus, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” The Canons of Dordt puts it like this in the third and fourth point of doctrine, “faith is a gift of God, not in the sense that it is offered by God for man to choose, but that it is in actual fact bestowed on man, breathed and infused into him.” This image of how God gives us faith brings me back to creation where God gives humanity life by bending over us, making us with his hands and then breathing his life-giving Spirit into us. This is the same image that the Canons give us of how we are given the gift of faith, it’s breathed into us as a gift of life.
Ezekiel 36 is all about heart change, changing hearts from stone to flesh. This heart change leads to relationship change. God’s people kept walking away from him, going after other gods that were more interesting and seemed to promise a lot more. Now God gets ticked off at them and allows them to be taken into exile, showing them that their new gods are weak nothings. But God doesn’t give up on them, he keeps coming after them. The Jews are far from home, living with loss and grief, not fitting in here in the land of their conquerors. Now God shows up, It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.  “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land.” God’s going to bring them home again!
Then there’s that beautiful picture of renewal and hope, I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” God acts on us and in us first, making it possible for us to come back to him. He pours his Spirit into us to move us to follow his decrees and keep his laws. God does this in a spirit of generosity and grace, with promises of abundance and flourishing when they return home. Their land will become like the garden of Eden, their cities rebuilt strong and fortified, the people becoming as numerous again as sheep, echoes back to God’s promises to Abraham that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the night sky or the sand on the beach.
Irresistible grace is more about experience than about head knowledge. It’s God pursuing you like a lover until the reality of his love overwhelms you and you find that you can’t say ‘No’ to him. This is the story of the prophet Hosea in the Old Testament, a prophet who is told to marry a prostitute and to love her and never give up on her. Hosea and his wife Gomer are a picture of what our relationship with God is like; we keep running away, God keeps overwhelming us with his love and desire for us and captivating our hearts. How has God overwhelmed you with his love and desire for you, how have you experienced God’s irresistible grace in your life?
The Arminians taught that “the Spirit calls inwardly all those who are called outwardly by the gospel invitation; He does all that He can to bring every sinner to salvation. But inasmuch as man is free, he can successfully resist the Spirit's call… man's free will limits the Spirit in the application of Christ's saving work. The Holy Spirit can only draw to Christ those who allow Him to have His way with them. Until the sinner responds, the Spirit cannot give life. God's grace, therefore, is not invincible; it can be, and often is, resisted and thwarted by man.” Arminius believed that even though God may want us to be his children, we can tell God “No.” God’s not able to persuade us to become part of his family, even though that’s what he wants. Our salvation depends on us accepting God first.
The Reformers taught that “the Holy Spirit extends to the elect a special inward call that inevitably brings them to salvation. The external call (which is made to all without distinction) can be, and often is, rejected; whereas the internal call (which is made only to the elect) cannot be rejected; it always results in conversion. By means of this special call the Spirit irresistibly draws sinners to Christ. He is not limited in His work of applying salvation by man's will, nor is He dependent upon man's cooperation for success. The Spirit graciously causes the elect sinner to cooperate, to believe, to repent, to come freely and willingly to Christ. God's grace, therefore, is invincible; it never fails to result in the salvation of those to whom it is extended.” For me, this is a huge comfort, knowing that God doesn’t give up on me, that he’s going to persist until his grace moves me to accept him. God’s also working to transform me. He loves me so much he accepts me for who I am, and he loves me too much to let me stay the same, but gives us the Holy Spirit to make me more and more who he has created me to be. This goes for you too.
Irresistible grace leads to what in church language, we call regeneration. The Canons describe it this way, “This divine grace of regeneration does not act in people as if they were blocks and stones; nor does it abolish the will and its properties or coerce a reluctant will by force, but spiritually revives, heals, reforms, and—in a manner at once pleasing and powerful—bends it back. As a result, a ready and sincere obedience of the Spirit now begins to prevail where before the rebellion and resistance of the flesh were completely dominant.” The Holy Spirit helps our hearts make a U-turn back to Jesus. The Holy Spirit works in our hearts to attract us to Jesus by reminding us of how much Jesus loves us, how he went to the cross to die for you so that you can have peace, hope and love shape your life and help us obey and become more like Jesus. It’s like we got sick and the Holy Spirit works to make us better again. This is a huge comfort to me because it fills me with hope that whenever I am talking to others about Jesus, whenever I’m praying for my neighbours and friends, and others to accept Jesus, I can trust that Jesus is going to love on them so much that they’ll finally submit to him.
There was an older man in Thunder Bay who kept showing up at the Christian Community Center guys’ group. He was such a miserable guy that at times we would even ask him why he was even there. He would never give us a straight answer. Then one evening, as we were talking about what it means to be a man after God’s own heart, the other leader there with me looked straight at this miserable guy and said, “It’s time you admit that God wants you.” I was shocked when the guy’s response was to start crying. He said, “I didn’t want to come, but I couldn’t help myself, I had to keep coming to hear that someone loved me too much to give up on me, but I could never really believe that until right now. Thank you.” That’s irresistible grace in action.

Friday, 15 November 2019

John 3:1-21 Whoever Believes

Last week we talked about picking teams and how if we weren’t very good, we just got put on a team even though they didn’t want us. Today we’re going to talk about something even harder, like when teams are picked and we’re completely left off them. Right away we feel it’s unfair, that everyone should be chosen. This is what many people feel about our point of doctrine this morning called Limited Atonement.
Limited Atonement is the most controversial of the 5 points in the Canons of Dordt. The question has to do, first of all, with the value of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The Early Church Father Augustine taught that the atonement of Jesus Christ is big enough for all people. There’s enough power in Jesus’ sacrifice to cover the sins of every human being who has ever lived. What Jesus did on the cross is more than powerful enough to cover the sins of every person in the world.
 Does the atonement mean everybody is automatically saved?” Does Christ’s death on the cross save the whole world? There are people who believe that Jesus died for the whole world and everyone will go to heaven. They’re called Universalists. Arminians don’t believe in limited atonement, but they also aren’t Universalists. We both agree that not everybody is saved through the atoning death of Jesus Christ. There is a limit to the effectiveness of the cross. As the theologian R.C Sproul writes, “The real issue is the question of the intent and of the design. Arminianism teaches that God, when he planned the way of salvation, intended the atonement for all men, and designed it as such. Calvinism says that God designed the atonement of Jesus Christ to be for the elect only. Every single person for whom Christ died is saved.” You don’t have to worry about whether or not Jesus’ sacrifice is good enough to cover you, as a follower of Jesus and part of God’s family, you are saved.
Jacob Arminius was teaching that we choose to believe in Jesus first. This gets us back to last week, where we were reminded that the Bible teaches us that our faith begins as a gift from God and that we believe through faith, so it all begins with God instead of our choice to believe. There’s this tension that we find in the Bible between God choosing us, but also the call for us to choose God over the gods of the world. Some people refuse to choose God and Jesus. Much of this tension lies in the reality that we’re not able to understand God and need to accept these tensions in faith, realizing that we do have a responsibility for our faith that fits in with God choosing us. This helps us to understand why there are some people who are not saved.
Most of us know the story of Jesus and Nicodemus, the story of one of the religious leaders in Jerusalem who wants to know more about Jesus and his message, but who’s afraid of the other leaders. Jesus and Nicodemus have this fascinating and confusing conversation about being born again, about entering into the kingdom of God and how we need to be born of water and the Spirit. Then Jesus compares the Spirit to the wind that blows around you but you can’t see it, only feel its presence. Nicodemus is left scratching his head, asking, “How can this be?”
Jesus then talks about Moses and the bronze snake. The story goes like this in Numbers 21, “Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.” Jesus is pointing to his own death on a pole, a death that’s going to save people from their sins and give us new life after tasting the death that sin holds. But in Moses’ story, not everyone was saved, only those who looked to the snake on the pole were healed.
Now comes John’s famous words, 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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” These verses are deeply loved for a reason. They’re filled with hope and grace, love and mercy and forgiveness. But there’s a warning here as well, not everyone’s going to be saved, only those who believe in Jesus. This is limited atonement. Later in John’s gospel, we hear Jesus talking to God in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Jesus looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.  For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.Jesus goes on to tell his Father. “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.” Jesus doesn’t come to condemn the world, because Jesus cares deeply even for those who don’t accept him because everyone’s created in God’s image.
Comfort is found in the peace we receive when we realize that as a follower of Jesus you don’t have to worry whether or not Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross has washed away your sins and made you right with God: it has. But there are people who do great evil and deliberately refuse to accept Jesus. They’re not made right with God because of their own choices. Not everyone’s going to be saved; God is also a God of justice. An older lady who had lived with her abusive husband for way too many years, in order to find peace with God and comfort for her soul, needed to know that her husband, who was unrepentant and unashamed of his actions and the terrible hurt he has caused her and their family, is going to be held accountable by God for the evil he has done. Limited atonement does not mean that God is a small God, or doesn’t love people as much as the Bible says he does. Limited Atonement means that God hears the cries of the oppressed, sees the victims of evil and holds those who have deliberately done evil accountable. There are evil people in the world who don’t repent; Jesus’ sacrifice will not make their evil right.
God holds us accountable for our sin, yet when we seek truly his forgiveness, Jesus’ sacrifice washes us clean again. Jesus tells us we need to be born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’” When we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts, transforming us to be more like Jesus, born again, which is represented by the water of baptism as a sign that our sins are washed away, we don’t have to be afraid of not being part of the family of God. This is why we need to know all of Scripture, to hear that God doesn’t give up on us even after Adam and Eve turned away from God, hearing that Abraham was called to be a blessing to all the nations of the world, that God loves the world so much that he sends his own son Jesus to die on the cross to wash us clean from our sin, that there are going to be people in heaven from all over the world and from every culture and ethnic background.
Limited Atonement doesn’t mean that there’s going to be a small number of people that are saved, only that Jesus’ sacrifice doesn’t save everyone, it’s limited to those who believe in Jesus. There’s this wonderful picture in Revelation 7 that shows us how big God’s love and acceptance is,After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.  And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!

Monday, 4 November 2019

Ephesians 1:1-14 No Conditions

How many of you enjoy games where teams need to be picked first? I never minded them because I was pretty good athletically, but a good friend hated these games because he was usually picked last. If you were good enough, you got picked, if you didn’t have much to add to the team, you were forced onto one of the teams, which often made you feel pretty rotten. It’s no different when you are looking for a job; you need to be able to offer your new boss something of value in order to get the job, whatever that value might be. Relationships are the same thing, whether it’s a friendship or something deeper, we bring different things into these relationships that the other person wants. This is good and wonderful, but what about our relationship with God, can we bring anything of value into our relationship with God? Are we good enough to get chosen for his family? Right from the start, I want to emphasize that we don’t have to earn God’s love because we already have it! That’s what’s at the heart of unconditional election: God chooses us first simply because he loves us. We don’t do anything to earn it.
Joseph Arminius taught that “Through faith Christ’s righteousness would be applied to us: God elects believing sinners and rejects unbelieving sinners. The new covenant that God made with us after the Fall included the gift of all the means of grace that we need to believe in Christ, to repent, and to be saved.” It comes down to saying that God chooses those he knows will believe the gospel. Election is based on God knowing beforehand that we will choose to believe in Jesus. It’s up to us to believe and so then be chosen to be saved. This means it’s the sinner's choice of Christ, not God's choice of the sinner, that is the ultimate cause of salvation.
The problem is that we know in our own hearts that we only choose God when we need him, not because we want him. Then, when we get what we want or need, we go back to the way things were beforehand and only come back to God when something comes up again. Our relationship with God is all based on what he can give us, or what he can do for us. We place conditions on our relationship with God and assume that it must be the same way with God, that he only chooses the people who were going to choose him anyway. There’s no comfort in that, no hope, no peace because this means our relationship with God is based on my heart and changing feelings and needs.
The “U” in TULIP stands for unconditional election. This is all about comfort and peace because as Paul says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” Do you hear the comfort, “he chose us before the creation of the world, in love he predestined us to be children of God, and we have been given his glorious grace?” This is all about God choosing us way before we could ever choose him. We don’t have to fear whether or not we’ve been chosen by God or that we belong, because it’s not up to us, God has chosen us already. You don’t have to worry about not measuring up, not deserving God’s grace, or being afraid of not belonging because God says, “You belong, you are mine, I choose you as my child to be a princess or prince in my kingdom.”
But the comfort and hope go even deeper. Theology and doctrine have to be practical and help us in our day to day life, otherwise it’s just chasing after the wind, as the expression goes. So Article 17 in the Canons of Dordt talks about parents who have lost children at really young ages, or maybe even in miscarriage and they offer this comfort: “Since we must make judgments about God’s will from his Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature but by virtue of the gracious covenant in which they together with their parents are included, godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom God calls out of this life in infancy.” My nephew Aaron died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome when only a few months old and we found peace and comfort knowing that Aaron is with Jesus now, we don’t have to doubt that at all. The Canons of Dordt are the only confession I know that talks about tiny babies belonging to God. For this article alone, I love the Canons. The writers of the Canons tell us that we need to teach about election “for the glory of God’s most holy name, and for the lively comfort of his people.”
This doctrine is not a club to be used by us to figure out who is chosen by God and who isn’t; it’s a gift of hope and comfort to offer people the hope that God chooses them even though they don’t measure up and can never measure up. I think of Mother Theresa going into the slums of Calcutta to serve the beggars and forgotten people there, people no one wanted to be close to, people rejected by society as being unworthy, these are the people Mother Theresa went to serve and offer the gift of Jesus Christ, the gift of healing and hope and eternal life with a God who loves and accepts them, who loves them enough to send his own son to earth to become like us and take our sin and brokenness, our soul sickness because of our sin to the cross where he takes our punishment on himself so that we can know healing, hope and acceptance.
A Taize devotional reads,God chose us “from our mother’s womb,” from the very beginning, before we even had the time or opportunity to do or to deserve anything. God says an unconditional yes to the people he calls “his servant,” whom he “redeemed” from harsh slavery and who now belong to him. He also says this yes to each one of us; he becomes the source of a life that satisfies our thirst for recognition and love, that can spring up even in the midst of our deserts and that will never run dry. When we become aware of God’s yes, we become witnesses to this belonging and we sing its praises just as the witnesses in this text do; we become able to make our own the joyful song that Brother Roger proposes to our soul: “I belong to Christ, I am Christ’s.”
One of the reasons I came back to Jesus was because I was searching for a place where I could belong, where I was accepted for who I was. I found this acceptance in Jesus who has accepted me, chosen me for who I am, but who loves me too much to allow me to stay the same and who has given me the Holy Spirit to keep moving me to change more and more to be like Jesus.
Unconditional election is life changing; leading to lives of gratitude, love and grace because of God’s grace and love. The next question after realizing that we are chosen by God is, ‘What are we chosen for?’ We’re not just chosen for eternal life, but we’re chosen for something. Richard Mouw writes, “God elects us to participate in a covenant community that shows forth his sovereign rule over all areas of life.” We’re chosen to be part of a community of believers that brings the hope of Jesus into the world. The Apostle Peter, an early church leader writes, But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
We’re chosen to share our faith in Jesus with others so they can come to know the God who loves them so deeply because he has chosen them to be his precious children. We are chosen to live together as the family of God to give the world a glimpse of what the kingdom of heaven is all about, which is why, because of the amazing grace of unconditional election, we follow Jesus with all our heart, we live together in love, we live humble lives of loving service and we share our faith in Jesus so that all those in our lives can know God’s unconditional love for them.