And then there’s the story about the guy who believed in predestination: after he fell down a flight of steps, he picked himself up and said, “I’m glad that’s over with.”
Monday’s Meditation discussed a common, everyday word: that. Today we invite spiritual whiplash by talking about predestination. There . . . did you feel it? Heaviness just entered the discussion. Nostrils flared as people began to dig in their heels because they already have strong opinions about this subject. The other sound you heard was the slamming of the door as right-minded people said, “Predestination? I’m outa here--who needs another argumentative blog post?” They are probably right to run. I’d leave, too, except I live here.
Is there a way to talk about about God’s sovereignty without small minds taking big positions? Probably not. Calvinism has become shorthand for predestination. Greg Boyd has been labeled a heretic for suggesting Open Theism. Most of the folks who hold to Arminianism are surprised to learn there was actually a guy named Arminius.
So join me in the deep end of the pool. If I start to sink, perhaps your comments will save me in the end. I’ve been thinking lately.
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 image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8: 28 - 29)
When you cut through the ten-dollar theological words in these verses, I think Paul means simply that God takes care of his children and wants every one of them to look just like Jesus.
This passage reveals that our destiny is to become conformed to the image of His Son. Pre-destination means someone in charge has determined where we’re going before we get there. The Father has determined that the place to be is Christlikeness--that’s home! What if predestination isn’t about a place, but instead about a condition?
Instead we’ve fixated on who’s in and who’s out. We’ve become protocol experts checking credentials at the door of heaven. The Apostle Paul considered Christlikeness to be the outcome of the gospel:
- “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4: 19). When Paul mentions the pains of childbirth in association with their growth, he’s telling the Galatians that spiritual formation is just as important as spiritual birth. After the new birth, he says, something is supposed to be formed in each one of us. That something is the image of Jesus.
- “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me." (Colossians 1: 28-29). When he mentions admonishing and teaching, Paul is describing a process. Being conformed to the likeness of Jesus is the result of applied supernatural wisdom. It not reserved for super saints, this passage says clearly, “everyone.” In verse 29 Paul sets his efforts and God’s energy side-by-side, describing a partnership between God’s empowerment and our strenuous response. Our spiritual DNA can come only from the new birth, our transformation comes our response and his continued grace.
Sometimes the scripture asks us to believe good news, news so good it stretches our faith and reaches way beyond our understanding. Part of that news is our destination--a destination pre-determined by the very heart of the Father: it’s not a place, but the possibility of becoming conformed to the image of Christ. The Father believes it about each on of us, do we believe it about ourselves?
The Father wants a big family. The First Son was born into the family. Since then sons and daughters have been adopted, and apparently he wants all the children to have a family resemblance.