Last week I was on a short trip to
where last year I graduated from seminary.
I was at a program for people who have graduated within the past five
years, as they make the transition from seminary and into…well there has been a
great variety of vocational destinations among the graduates who came back. Many would have been expected but there were
a few surprises. Holland, Michigan
One of the talks I was privileged to hear was titled “The Biblical Vision of Leading the Church.” As part of his talk, Kyle Small introduced us to what was for me a new way to read, and more importantly, to listen, to Scripture. I’m not going to describe the method, at least not here right now. I haven’t taken the opportunity to go back and review my notes or the information we were provided with. What I do want to discuss is what I heard in particular at that time, as the text spoke to me. Or perhaps more accurately, as God spoke to me through the text
As a group we heard and read John 15:1-17. This was, for me, familiar territory. We recently explored it at my Bible study and it contains many phrases and thoughts that I believe are fairly widely known among Christians. Themes of “abiding,” “bearing fruit” and “laying down one’s life” are just several of the treasures of this passage.
As I read and pondered this section of Scripture, my eyes, and my heart, lingered on the first half of verse 16, where Jesus says,
“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,…”
I suppose that the first part, where Jesus says, “You did not choose me but I chose you” could be held up as a proof-text for the Biblical foundation of the doctrine of election. It could be used to “prove” that God is in the business of choosing those who follow him, perhaps even against their will. And maybe sometimes it has been heard and used that way, but it wasn’t to me that morning.
I heard something much more personal. I heard that I, Brad, did not choose God, but that God chose me. Personally.
The God of all time and space, the God who transcends all time and space, the God who spoke creation into existence, the God who gave his own Son for my sin, chose me.
He didn’t have to choose me, because he’s God and can do whatever he wants to. He didn’t have to choose me so he must have wanted to choose me. But for what purpose?
The easy answer, the one that is almost a reflex, is described in John 3:16,
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
So maybe God chose me so that I could hang out in heaven with God, eternally. And I believe that the easy answer is certainly true, but John 15:16 points to something richer. I have not just been chosen by God for salvation to eternal life, but as a result of his choosing I am also “appointed” for the task of “bearing fruit.”
Now this is starting to sound to me a bit like it may be John’s version of the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20. And while I know those verses from Matthew well, the way that John has described the task of sharing the Good News feels a bit richer as I contemplate the phrase “that your fruit should abide.”
God has chosen me, and given me, the task of “bearing fruit,” fruit that will “abide” in him. He doesn’t tell me who and he doesn’t tell me how. He appears to leave those details up to me.
And maybe that is why lately, over the past two weeks or so, I have found myself thinking more about some particular people that I know and what the eternal state of their souls may be. I have never heard them say what they think or believe about Jesus and God’s Good News, but the evidence of their lives that I do know of suggests that knowing and loving God are not things they value highly.
So maybe one of the things that God has chosen and appointed me to do is to pray for these people and to prepare for a moment when I may share in some way with them what I believe about Jesus, so that they, like I, may abide in him, now and forever.
These are some of my thoughts on how “being chosen” looks at this time in my life. To what task has God chosen and appointed you for?
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.