In April 2001, my mother took my brothers and I to visit my grandma in Athens, Alabama. We stayed the weekend, attending the morning service at Salem Springs Baptist Church, where my Grandpa served as pastor before passing away in 1997. I will never forget that Sunday. I wish I could remember the Pastors name, or even the text that was preached, the only thing I can remember is feeling Gods unmistakable call to repent of my sins and trust in Him. I began to weep during the invitation. My Mother and Grandma were a little alarmed, because I had already made a profession of faith several years prior. After church I told my Mom that I would like to speak with our pastor the following Sunday when we were home. We did, and I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ the next Sunday.
I’ve thought about that Sunday for many years now. What made me choose to become a Christian? By all accounts, I was already a Christian. I had already repeated the sinners prayer and was baptized. I knew Jesus was Gods son and that He died on the cross for my sins. I had been a church kid all of my life and possessed an adequate understanding of the Bible. Before that weekend I never questioned my salvation or even wondered if it was genuine. What was it about that morning service that shook me so strongly?
Is the decision to follow Jesus similar to all the other decisions we make throughout our lifetime? College or workforce? Netflix or exercise? Chicken or steak? Suv or Mini-van? Beard or no beard? Did I simply desire to better my future by choosing eternal life instead of eternal suffering? If that’s the case, then why doesn’t everyone choose to follow Christ?
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide. -John 15:16a
Jesus told His disciples that they did not seek Him out, but rather He sought them. The Son of God did not host a series of tryouts for those seeking to become His disciples. He did not even go to the tabernacle to pick from the best and brightest. Jesus chose twelve, and only twelve, and appointed them to be His Apostles. Ironically, those who desired to be his disciples were told to “Leave the dead to bury their own dead“.
In the same way, God chose Abram. There were many people to choose from, even after the destruction of mankind by the flood, and yet God called Abram from Ur of the Chaldeans. God promised Abram that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed“, even though his wife Sarai was barren.
God fulfilled His promise to Abram by choosing Israel. There were certainly many nations and people groups to choose from, and yet God chose one people to proclaim His glory. God tells His people,
“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Similarly, God chooses His church. When Jesus foretells His coming return, he refers to His children as the “elect“, which is another word for chosen.
Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
For the very same reason, the Apostle Paul is able to call the Christians in Colossae “Gods chosen ones.” They did not choose God. God chose them and called them to a life of holiness. After elaborating over Gods everlasting love, Paul rhetorically asks the church in Rome, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” Meaning that whomever God has chosen will be justified by the blood of Christ.
“And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” -Rom 8:28
I do not believe that I choose to become a Christian. I believe that God chose me before I even came into existence. I do not say this with pride, I am simply admitting that God is sovereign over all His creation. This is in fact what the Bible teaches. Consider the beautiful introduction to the book of Ephesians,
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 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…In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.
If you are a Christian, it is by Gods grace alone. It was not because of your intelligence, works, wisdom, social standing or cultural context that you decided to follow Christ. A Christian has no grounds for boasting in regards to his salvation.
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 1 Cor 1:26-29
We “choose” to follow Christ because He has chosen us. The effectual (Effective) call of Christ only comes to those who have already been chosen by God. This truth should overwhelm us with thankfulness and deep gratitude for the grace of God. We deserve death, and yet Christ has given life to all He has chosen. If you have been purchased by the blood of Christ, you were chosen by God.