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CHOICE and CHOSEN
As Christians move on the Christian Pilgrimage, they thrust on from the world, the earth, the creation to the Creator neither with breathless haste, nor indolent ease. The end is sure; the way is truth; the program is peace, and if in battles innumerable, the foes of faith and righteousness need to be confronted, yet the triumph is not an option for history. It is bound. Nor yet is history for fun, but an exercise in splendour with humility, or else in shame with proud negation; and alas one must add with pity in the throat, many have a proud negation who are thrust downwards into the carnalities of this earth and world, its derelict system and despiteful disgraces that clamour for honour as they feast on shame, without joy, without hope. They have grown accustomed to its voice; it may even humiliate them, but they still follow it; it may be ashes in their mouths, but they still eat. Their beings turn with an instinctive shrinking from the reality of knowing the Lord; and like starving orphans, they WILL not come home.
How does all this proceed ? Is it then merely a wink of the eyelid, which is missing, as at some large art auction ? a touch of the eye ? a finger to the nose ? Could all this be changed by such simplicities and yet they do not call on the name of the Lord, for all that ?
COULD they call on Him ? Alas, for some as Paul tells Timothy (I Tim 4), their consciences are seared as with a hot iron. You can't do much with seared cloth can you! History is; and when it is, it is necessary to be realistic, and seek Him while He may be found. Taking Him is irreversible (John 6:37, 10:27-29,10:9); playing with Him is mere facial acne.
Some have openly trodden Christ under foot (Hebrews 10), and lack shame for it; others again, almost compulsively, if not with obsession, detach Him from all relationship to their crippled souls, like a mosquito who sucks blood; but it was precisely His OWN blood that He gave.
No, it is not in man to choose God, though he can choose to follow his fleshly lusts of mind, his impotent extravanganzas of spirit, his brazen bids of bodies if he will, to their own appointed end. It is NOT of man who wills, and he is born NOT of blood NOR of the will of the flesh; and you are EITHER in the flesh or you are NOT (Romans 8, I Corinthians 2:14), either the 'natural' unconverted man without vision, or you are a spiritual being because a child of God and made so by the Holy Spirit, convicting you of sin, righteousness and judgment. The resolution is of God's work, not of man's.
What then ? Do you not have the 'right' to choose God ? Certainly you may 'choose God' provided you realise that this is a consequence of His having first chosen you. The spiritual things, by the authority of HIS OWN WORD are not wise, but foolish UNTIL you are made anew (I Cor. 2).
WHEN He has chosen you, then the tension between the former feeling, will and attachments may indeed so strike you that you are moved to 'choose' Him. Indeed, long may be the contest, the conflict within you as the movements of His Spirit wear down and into the rock of your own littleness, and embarrass, harass or even penetrate into your life.
Yet this, like the stirrings of some giant volcano before the cataclysmic eruption, attests His work, but does not constitute the regeneration. WHEN and only when that comes, your RESPONSE is to choose Him, or to acknowledge and delight in Him, or to dedicate yourself to Him, or to thank Him unreservedly, that the eruption that threatened devastation has been turned into a regeneration which has removed the volcanic threat, and replaced it with the surge of new growth in the very presence of God. (Cf. Divine Agenda Ch. 9, *2, Great Execrations ... Ch. 9, as noted.)
It is wholly by means of His grace, and in NO measure by means of your own insight, intelligence, common sense, aspiration of spirit, perception of mind that you come. This is far from suggesting that all these things are not able to be challenged or even devastated in their self-assurance; but to be challenged is not identical with being changed, as you know in any election. In this case, indeed, while the election is by GOD of YOU, if so be, it is not carried out with no regard for you.
In the beginning, before time raised its historical head, and events surged into the arena, like some bull in some cases, God in His eternity, we find written, chose those to be His (Ephesians 1:4), not in terms of their 'works' but in His own terms, He FOREKNEW THEM: that is what it written (Romans 8:29ff.). Thus came predestination! That is the sequence given by God in His word.
The first thing shown is this, that the motive was love. The second, that it was kindness to the HUMAN RACE (John 3:16, Titus 2-3). The third, is that this love is SUCH THAT HE WOULD HAVE all to come to repentance (Colossians 1, I Timothy 2). The fourth is this, that when it acts, the contribution of merit for the choice which you make is about the same as you would be likely to make if your rich father had enrolled you for an expensive boarding school: NOTHING.
How then are you selected ? It is not some mystery, this being IN or OUT as Calvin so mistakenly imagined (cf. Marvels of Predestination and the Ways of Will Ch. 6), in the sense that there is no rationale at all, or that there is no principle revealed. There is a wholly adequate principle revealed! GOD is love and desires salvation for all, and the difference between this willingness and desire, and decision on HIS part, is neither power nor listlessness of love, but as the scripture incessantly illustrates in principle and practice, His concern NOT to tyrannise over man, NOT to force him, but in love to seek him (cf. SMR Appendix B).
The importance of this at the practical level of a man 'choosing' God is manifest. IF GOD were some uncertain sound in the realm of love, so that you COULD NOT be sure that His desire for you, at the outset of His love, was more like the passion of the Niagara Falls than the placidity of some country stream meandering through the fields, then indeed what an Arminian feast you might have, and what an Arminian feat you might accomplish in MAKING Him take you, forcing Him to face your address, initiative and glamour, grace or face or whatever else had appeal. Similarly, if there were a Calvinistic gulf, what persistence and patience, what address and attention might be required to give you any access to such mystery! In fact, the Bible has neither of these at times pompous sounding options for you. You are chosen in a UNIVERSAL love, which while it may bring rejection, is not so by nature, the consequences flowing from God's own knowledge (Romans 8:29ff.) as expressly stated.
The love makes ALL merit ridiculous. The power makes all force ludicrous, on your side. The free entry makes empty all privilege of personality, wealth, scholarship or charm, whatever the feature, you name it, it is irrelevant in you: irrelevant. It is not of works nor of the flesh nor of the will of man: how often must He say so (John 1:12, Ephesians 2:1-12). HE works it! In so doing, His love is unleashed, not in order to become force, but that its reality should be lost on and to and for none. In the end, yes, some have no place in it, but this is not because it lacked, but through its finding no fissure, no site, no relationship. Known in advance, the souls of men are chosen in advance; but not in irrelevance to love: rather with other considerations irrelevant as the FINAL MOTIF!
What then ? Therefore WHEN God seems near to you, do not act as if you had an Arminian 'chance' and could take Him or not. On the other hand, do not fear with a Calvinist 'mystery' as if there was some possible hidden agenda which had no love for you. If He is near, stretch out your arms and receive Him warmly. YOU do not do that choosing; He does. If however you do not seek Him while He may be found, this merely illustrates the hardness of heart which finally disdains His love. You are concerned ? Then seek. You do not feel capable of finding ? But it is not as if you were seeking to marry a telegraph pole. GOD IS LOVE. Knowing His love, and realising your lack of worth, and brim-full with repentance at passing over such munificent magnificence, seize Him when He is near, just as a man seizes life when death is speeding to him at 100 mph, on a highway.
You do not 'feel' like this ? Very well. There are no complaints then. You do ? Compliance then.
BOTH the presumption of imagining you can take Him any time you like, and the discouragement of feeling it is very mysteriously uncertain whether He would take you are unscriptural, a mere phantasm of His love. WHEN you receive Him, it is already attested that HE has received you; for without HIS action, you COULD not have known Him (John 3), neither SEEING nor (and therefore) being ABLE to enter His kingdom.
If grumps and grittings of teeth (as at some painful dentist episode) detract from the attraction, so be it. If your teeth are not filled, let them ache.
There is another resultant. You have nothing to crow about. Nothing is the object of boasting in this (Ephesians 2:1-10), but CHRIST ONLY. Have you ever noticed how painful is the voice of the crow ? Far more so is it here! It is not only out of place, but impossibly so. Those who have something to crow about are alien in nature to Christ. GOD FORBID that I should boast EXCEPT in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom I am crucified to the world and the world to me! (Galatians 6:14).
How boast if it is all of God, and nothing of yourself, either in mysterious "God-suitability" of your own nature, or in the God-effectuality of your own will. NEITHER character nor will determine it; but God only. Yet in so doing, He does not violate you, knowing where love reaches, and while He grieves for the lost, it is not as do the incompetent or the weak. Love is fulfilled to the uttermost. God never fails.
Without His grace, you would lie in sin whether pride, arrogance, vanity, devastatingly admirable humility or other gracious contrivance of your self-assessing self! You would move no more upward than someone with his para-glider, tangled in the cords, filled with hope, but with no wind. The wind blows where it will: it is unaccountable in human terms. We THINK we know all about meteorology at times, until we are caught in the devastations ignorance could not foresee.
How much less do we know of the ways of God in His seekings and reprovings! (John 3:5-8). The principles we know; the power we know; the love we know; but just HOW He operates in His own skilled way, it is His own. The pilgrimage TO find Him and then to FIND HIS FACE when He returns, this continues, with lightning stabs as someone is suddenly allowed to find Him, and tempestuous darkenings as people who were drawing near, finally loose all hope, abandon if you will, the hopeful hillside, and follow their lusts downwards, for this world and not for the next, for this and that pleasure and not for life, for its appurtenances and not for its appointments.
How fascinating these movements, sometimes with upthrust so powerful that hundreds of gliders are caught aloft in a minute; and sometimes, it is otherwise, the many squandering their time in idle messings about with the cords, disgusted with the weather, often on the wrong hill.