How should we report about Justin Bieber, Kanye West and other cases of well-known personalities who are considering the Christian faith?
Three simple steps from the pen of Paul.
The cool thing about the Bible is that it’s informative and transformative.
Scripture’s teaching doesn’t just instruct us but it also aims at changing us. Education and sanctification ought to stick together. Theory and praxis are two spiritual chums.
The same rule applies to the word of God’s teaching about the lofty doctrine of election. God chooses. But at a practical level, how can we know if we have been elected by the Almighty?
Paul makes things ever so simple in the first chapter of First Thessalonians.
The apostle kicks off his second canonical letter (Galatians being the first) praising and thanking God for the faith, hope and love of the saints at Thessalonica. Rather than extolling the saints,
He magnifies their Lord knowing that He it was who worked in them salvation. In verse 4 he states categorically, “Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God”.
Why are the Thessalonians saved? Because the Lord God had chosen them from eternity past!
After verse 4, the apostle proceeds to make mention of three crystal clear signs of election which we would all do well to apply to our own lives.
Sign Number One: The Gospel
The first sign that one is chosen of God is what verse 5 affirms, “Our gospel came not unto you in word only but also in power and in the Holy Ghost”.
That’s it! The first sign of election is when the power of the Gospel transforms our lives inward out.
We exercise saving faith upon the Lord Jesus Christ confessing that His death and glorious resurrection are our only hope in life and death.
This mighty gospel gave us a heart of flesh so that our affections within have been completely transformed. Our hearts are now glory-of-God-centred and no longer me-me-me-focused.
The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ has revolutionized our souls. We now believe upon Christ come hell or high water!
Sign Number Two: A Transformed Life
But Paul wasn’t content with merely assuring the Thessalonians that they were chosen by God because they had believed the Gospel of Christ’s cross and resurrection.
He also made sure to point out that the elect were to lead godly lives. Have a look at verse 6, “And you became followers of us and of the Lord”.
So the second sign of true election is that we begin to walk as followers of the Lord. In reality, this is the inevitable outworking of the first sign.
The promise of the New Covenant doesn’t just give us a new heart but it also makes sanctification unavoidable. Ezekiel 36:26 and 36:27 cannot be separated!
Gospel-faith and holy-living rise or fall together. The faith and hope of the Thessalonians were made manifest by their walking in love.
Sign Number Three: Joy in Persecution
The last clause of verse 6 also reveals another clear sign of being chosen by God, namely, joy in persecution for the faith.
It reads, “Having received the word in much affliction with joy of the Holy Ghost”.
Note here the sharp contrast between the truly regenerate in Thessalonica who rejoiced in suffering for the blessed word of God and the seed that was sown in shallow ground (according to the parable) which immediately withered up once it had to suffer persecution for the gospel.
This is the fundamental difference between a truly born again child of God and a son of the flesh.
Whereas the latter departs from the things of the Lord as soon as he (she) is afflicted for the word; the former press on in the Most High, giving all praise to the Lord even in the midst of the fiercest trials.
A question we should all ask ourselves is: what effect does persecution for the word produce in our own lives? Does it draw us nearer to the Lord or does it cast us off farther away from Him? The chosen draw near; the unbelievers flee.
Election, then, can be very easily discerned in our own lives.
In the light of our study today, allow me to ask you three key questions:
One: do you truly believe the Gospel i.e. that Christ died for your sin and rose from the grave on the third day for your eternal salvation?
Two: do you lead a transformed life, that is, do you know hate to do the things you once loved and love the things you once hated?
Three: are you taking great joy in suffering on account of the word of God knowing that the Saviour will reward richly in His presence?
If your answers are all in the affirmative, then according to the apostolic logic, you can rejoice knowing that the electing hand of our precious Lord is upon you!
Keep walking in holiness!
Keep rejoicing in trails for the faith!