We’re taking a little detour now through some less-traveled territory. Anyone who has hiked with me knows that I have an insatiable desire to see what is over the next hill—especially when I know what is coming up ahead. While my hiking partners might be wondering if we will EVER get to our destination, I eagerly encourage them to keep going, telling them that the extra push will be worth it. The reward comes when we emerge near the crest of the mountain and find ourselves at a high mountain lake, surrounded by beautiful flowers and God’s amazing majesty. So tighten your shoe laces and ready your pack. Don’t worry; this trail was mapped out ahead of time and our guide knows the way. Meet me at the trailhead—Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
We are introduced here to the concept of predestination: the idea that somehow our lives are pre-determined or mapped-out beforehand by God. The issue of predestination is not only important in our understanding of how God directs our lives personally, but it also leads us to a greater understanding of God and His Sovereignty. Lest we stop here with the assumption that “Wow, Jeremiah was really special!” It is helpful to know that he was not the only one in whom God took such a special interest.
David also spoke of this idea in Psalm 139:15-16: “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
The concept of predestination applies to us as well:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)
The concept of predestination can be a difficult one to grasp. How can Scripture teach us that our lives are predetermined by God on one hand, while on the other, tell us that He calls us to account for our actions? As Romans 2:6 tells us, “God ‘will give to each person according to what he has done.” How do we reconcile our personal responsibility with God’s sovereignty over our lives? I readily admit that there is much I do not understand, but I have come to some important insights about this that might be helpful.
God has a plan for all of mankind, as well as for our lives personally. Everything that happens fits into His plan. God is omniscient; He knows all things. In Psalm 33-13-15, we read, “From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth-he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.” Scripture also tells us that the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. (See Chronicles 28:9.) Although we make our own decisions, God knows ahead of time what those decisions will be. David declares in Psalm 139:1-4, “O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.” Again, in Proverbs 16:9 we learn “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.”
The mystery of predestination is that although God chooses us, the decision we make to follow Christ is an act of our free will. Scripture tells us in Ephesians 1:4-6: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” In Romans 9, Paul speaks about God’s purpose in election, and quotes from Exodus 33:19 “‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’” He then goes on to explain, “It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” (Romans 9:15b-16)
The believer, however, is compelled—not forced—in this choice. Like the Shepherd in John 10 who calls His sheep by name, we hear and recognize His voice and follow Him. Some refer to this as the ‘irresistible grace’ of God. Further, in John 6:44, Jesus tells us, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” We come to Christ out of a desire that is aroused in us by the Gospel. We hear the story of the cross, and out of our own volition we assent to the fact that we are hopeless sinners deserving punishment and needing salvation, and we acknowledge that only Jesus can save us. When we accept Christ and His sacrifice, there is a coming together—a cooperation—between our free will and God’s sovereign will. It is nothing short of a miracle; the new believer is born to eternal life and the angels rejoice (Luke 15:7). The ungodly, however, hear the same voice but reject it and go their own way; as it says in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Let’s take a little break and breathe in the crisp mountain air. See the towering, majestic mountain across the way—soaring above all others? Can you see how it cradles its high glaciers, which constantly feed the brooks that dance down its face? The life-giving water provides sustenance to the entire mountain and the rich valleys below. Can you catch a glimpse of our awesome, Sovereign Lord up here? Hang on, fellow hiker; the view is even better further on. Our (pre)destination is just ahead.
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