Sure You're Sure

You are aware of “election,” yes? “God chose us in Jesus before the foundation of the world… He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ.” (Eph 1:4-5)

The fact that God “elects” people to be saved—chooses, predestines, calls—is clearly taught in Scripture. But that doesn’t mean we like it.

In fact, many Christians don’t like “the doctrine of election.” We avoid those passages. We craft philosophical spin moves to make them say something less-scary. Or we live with a lingering, anxious question: “Am I elect?”

How does “election” work? How would a person know if he or she were truly “one of the chosen”?

Related to this we worry about our sins or our doubts and dark thoughts. We wonder, “What if I ‘fall away’ or something?”

This is what Peter addresses in 2 Peter 1:10: “Therefore, be all the more diligent to confirm you calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

Peter is teaching that questions of election are answered by discipleship.

There is a thing that happens in the plan and foreknowledge of God that is at once mysterious and wonderful, a gracious calling without which no sinner would chose the Holy Kingdom of the Living God. But this thing is shrouded in a cloud, in mystery, in a place in God that we cannot quite seem to come to terms with—if some simple, easy to understand, biblical explanation for this existed, we’d all know it by now. But we continue to squabble about it, which means such a thing doesn’t quite exist. (My short answer is, “Jesus.” But the long answer takes a long time, so we’ll stick with the subject at hand.)

But out here in the world of diapers, bills, tacos and Reggae, what does election mean? How does it work? What difference can this make for us?

It makes many differences, but let's focus on our insecurity: What about my personal salvation? What about “falling away”? Is there a way to kind-of like…know?

Our questions of election are answered by discipleship.

Growth in discipleship confirms our election. It bears witness to the fact that new life has entered our souls. Discipleship is rigorous and requires endurance—marks of the Spirit’s energy working in us. Discipleship confirms the fact that we are “among the elect.”

Likewise, growth in discipleship prevents our apostasy. It keeps our faith present, vibrant, living and alive. It doesn’t settle for “I prayed a prayer,” or “I walked an aisle.” Discipleship keeps us sensitive to the ways the Spirit is at work today. It forces us to stay awake to the effects of sin, the world, and satanic lies. Discipleship keeps us from falling away into any kind of apostasy.

The application of this for us is obvious: “Be all the more diligent…practice these qualities…” (2 Peter 1:10)

One of the reasons we ought to want to keep growing in our relationship with Jesus is the confidence it gives us. Spiritual growth is confirmation of spiritual life—you never wonder if a growing tree is a living tree; it’s obvious. And spiritual fidelity is protection against spiritual straying—you never wonder if an infatuated couple is being faithful to each other; it’s obvious!

Sometimes we look to past successes to confirm our sense of “being saved.” Or we listen to our personal “sense” on the subject—I think I feel saved (today). Better than these is to receive the Spirit’s affirmation in the Spirit’s present work. The Spirit brings re-bar-reinforced confirmation to what at best we can kind-of feel okay about sometimes.

It’s easy to look back with fondness at what we did—“I helped build that church… I led that Sunday school class… I took that mission trip…” Or to think fondly of our personal abilities—“I’m a strong Bible believer… I’d never do anything like that… I’ll never doubt…” But it is more difficult to live as a disciple, sensitive to the ways in which temptation and trials are affecting me. Sensitive also to the ways the Spirit is helping me survive, and helping me thrive. That’s a real relationship; that's living proof.

To be present to the life of God at work in our lives: that’s discipleship. It is a great security and a great peace.

Questions of election are answered in discipleship. Growth in discipleship confirms our election and prevents our apostasy. If discipleship never did any good to anyone else, it does a lot of good for us personally. (It does a lot of good for other people too.)

To Consider and Discuss:
What do you look to for "assurance of salvation"? 
What part does the Holy Spirit play in our assurance? What part does discipleship play in our assurance?
What is "assurance" trying to free us to do in our lives?

Photo by Gabriel Wasylko  on Unsplash