Before the "lockdown," I spent much of my work-life going from town to town, church to church, conference to conference giving talks on this or that. Most often, my discussions would center around "handing over the goods" in one form or another.
What are the goods? They are nothing but the Gospel of Christ Jesus.
I usually rely on the apostle Paul to define it. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-6, he writes, "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep."
This Gospel is the message of hope, reconciliation, and life for the sinner—for you and for me. The sentiments of it are summed up well by what has become known as the Reformation Solas. They go like this. God has saved you, a poor miserable sinner, by His grace alone, through faith alone, on account of and for the sake of the person and work of Christ alone. As was the custom of the great composer, Johann Sebastian Bach, we often add “To God alone goes all the glory.”
When I am speaking the above messages from Paul and the great reformers, I often receive great admiration and praise. People will say things like, "What a great and freeing message" or "Finally, I am not being given a list of what I need to do, but being told I am free because of what Christ has done for me!" You get the picture.
Occasionally, I will speak some additional words from Paul to them. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love, he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved" (Eph. 1:3-6). More often than not, these same people who, moments before, praised me for preaching forgiveness and adoption in Christ will say, "What? Are you telling me God picks me?" or "Didn't I decide to follow Jesus when I was converted?" And so on.
Most people cannot handle hearing that God picks you before anyone else even knew you would exist! The fact is that God picked you to be His child before the foundation of the world. He worked that salvation in you by sending a preacher to hand the goods over to you. The Word was preached into your ears, the Holy Spirit worked through that word, and wormed His way from the sinful preacher's mouth to your wicked ears and onto your sinful heart. There he turned your heart of stone into a heart of flesh. He gave you faith and trust, which now saves you. That preacher poured the water of life over your head in connection with the promise of the Word. He feeds you Christ's body and blood with the bread and wine for the forgiveness of all of your sins. He preached to you, and you are an adopted child of the Most High! All because God on account of Christ decided to do this before the foundation of all things.
The Word was preached into your ears, the Holy Spirit worked through that word, and wormed His way from the sinful preacher's mouth to your wicked ears and onto your sinful heart.
Then they say, "If God decides to save me, doesn't that mean He decides some are damned too?" At which point, I smack my hand into my head, saying "Doh!" You see, I've found that some things make sense to our sinful minds, and some things do not. It makes sense that if we believe we have decided to save ourselves, then we also must decide to damn ourselves also. This sentiment is reflected in the tremendous evangelical anthem, "I have decided to follow Jesus." It even kind of makes sense that if God is the one deciding to save, He is also the one choosing to damn. This is the position promoted by the great theologian John Calvin and others.
Then the Scriptures come along and say, “Hold your horses! This is God's decision. His decisions do not have to match your sin-ridden sense of logic. If He says that He saves you in Christ just as He planned to do before the foundation of the world, then that is what He does. God picks you! If He says that He would have all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, He means it (1 Tim. 2:4). If He claims that sin, death, and damnation entered the world through the work of Satan and our progenitors, Adam and Eve, it's the truth (Genesis 3). If He says we are all therefore guilty of their first sin, we are (Romans 1-3). Thus, if we are damned it is because we have rejected His Word, the Gospel of Christ Jesus.
I've found that some things make sense to our sinful minds, and some things do not.
Here is the point: God picks you! He loves you. He has adopted you as His child. On account of Christ, He has decided that despite your sin and transgressions against His holy will for you, He will save you and set you free. He has sent you preachers to give you His good Word and hand over the goods. He has made you His own. And He decided to do all this before anyone else knew of you or loved you. He loved you in Christ before you were even loveable. God picks you!
In the name of Jesus. Amen.