7/19/2015 7:06:03 PM
God Has Chosen You - Pastor Aaron Dolan
Fellow members of the evangelism committee,
“Share your faith.” You’ve heard that said before. You’ve been instructed to do that. “Tell others about Jesus.” You and I have been conditioned to think that we are supposed to do that. But there’s something not quite right about the way it’s said at times. “Go spread the Word to others.” People say that and make it sound like it’s such an easy thing. But I’m guessing that you know otherwise. You may never have even tried to explain the gospel to someone who doesn’t know it or believe it. It’s not easy to start. Or you may have tried and felt like a complete failure after. It doesn’t go as smoothly as we sometimes portray it in church or Sunday School. It’s easy to say it here, “Go tell others.” It’s anything but easy to actually do it out there.
Is this a new problem? Of course not. Amos spoke the Word of God, and the king and a priest thought he was just trying to make money and didn’t really mean what he said, so they told him to stop bothering them. When Jesus sent the apostles out for the first time, he gave them instructions assuming that people would not listen to them. And how do people view Christians today? The same way they did when Amos and when Jesus were walking the earth.
And so when someone says casually, “Now tell others about Jesus,” we probably feel a little uncomfortable. “You say that like it’s so easy, no big deal. Have you actually ever tried?” These encouragements can easily turn into guilt trips. Then we simply ignore them. Then we try to make ourselves feel better by telling ourselves that that’s not our job or our role. Let the pastor do that, or the evangelism committee, because I’m just not good at that sort of thing.
You are the evangelism committee. Each one of you. Those who have the Savior share the Savior. That’s a true statement. But let’s stop making it sound like it’s such an easy and natural thing. It’s not easy. It’s not always painless. So why do it? Today’s lesson from Ephesians gives us the reason. God Has Chosen You.
It does not say that God chose you to be a missionary. No, it’s deeper and much richer than that. We start with this truth: “He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” So before the world even existed, before there was an earth, before there were people, before there was time, God knew you. That by itself is incredible. You could walk around your own neighborhood or walk through downtown or walk into a store, and not only might no one know you, but no one will even look at you or acknowledge you. Most will have their heads buried in their phones, and it would make no difference if you were there or if you didn’t exist. In stores you are just a number or a customer, forgotten as soon as you leave. Friends move on, family members move away, and contact becomes less frequent. And you start to wonder, does anyone even remember me? The God of the universe does. He knows you. Even before creation, he could say your name.
Not only did he know you, he chose you. And it wasn’t a random choosing. In verse 5 it says that God chose you, or “predestined” you, “in accordance with his pleasure and will.” That means he wanted to do this. He wanted to choose you; he did it intentionally. And it was fun for him! This was his pleasure. He enjoyed thinking about you and saying your name.
And he didn’t just choose you to exist; it was more specific. He chose you “to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Does that describe you—holy and blameless? Or does your conscience start to poke you when you hear that? He chose you to be holy and blameless, but have you ruined that? Has your life made God look bad for making you his choice?
Not at all. There are two little words that change everything: “in him.” God “chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless.” The “him” is referring to Jesus. We were chosen “in Jesus.” When God chose us he was seeing us through the filter of Jesus. He chose you to be one for whom Jesus died. He chose you to be forgiven of your specific sins. He chose you, he “predestined” you “to be adopted as his [family member] through Jesus Christ.”
And that’s the reason you have faith. You have faith because God chose for you to be forgiven and saved from your sins. And so he made sure, as he guided and shaped the history of the world, that you would come to be baptized and to hear the gospel, so that you would come to faith—so that you would know and trust that Jesus is your substitute in life and in death. He chose you to be holy and blameless, and so he made it happen.
This is what is sometimes called “the doctrine of election.” It’s the Bible’s teaching (doctrine) that God chose and knew in advance who would be saved. How can you be sure that you are truly one whom God has chosen? It’s really not something to worry about. The proof is in the gospel: Jesus died for you. Jesus is the reason God has chosen you—remember, it was “in him.” And Jesus has done everything necessary for your salvation—living the required life in your place, dying the death that was your punishment. It’s clear God has chosen you.
So what does this have to do with evangelism—with telling other people about Jesus? No guit trips. You see, the responsibility of changing people’s minds and hearts is not on you. You are not the one who will convince or fail to convince anyone that what you believe is true. Remember, God has chosen those who are saved. That includes the people around you. God has already chosen those who come to faith. The salvation of other people does not depend on you.
So how do those people come to faith? God has arranged it so that people come to faith by hearing the gospel, the message of Christ, and that’s where we do come in. Our work is not to convince people or force people. Our work is just to announce and proclaim this great grace of God in Christ so that by it those chosen will hear and be gathered into the family of God. Those who come to faith praise and thank God for it. Those who do not have only themselves to blame. Jesus died for all.
Does this truth make it easy to share your faith? No, not at all. It does take the pressure off, but it still does not make it an easy thing to do. So God has provided two things to help you. One is the group that’s sitting around you, to provide encouragement, shared experiences, and help. That’s why you’ve been hearing encouragements about your FRAN network (friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors). Some of your leaders are trying to organize things that will be easy for you to invite someone to. It’s the first step, and you have to take one step before you can be comfortable walking.
The second thing God has provided to help us in our evangelism efforts is his grace. In his grace, his love, he has chosen you to be his own. He’s not leaving you alone. And he offers that grace richly and repeatedly in his Word and sacrament. Learn and hear more for yourself, and it will start to flow from you to others.
There’s a portion of today’s communion liturgy that is taken directly from Ephesians 1:3. Near the beginning of the communion portion, Pastor Roekle will say, “Praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In love he has blessed us with every spiritual blessing.” Every spiritual blessing. Everything you need, because he’s chosen you. Fill up for yourself. Then let it spill over for others.