For five hundred years Israel did not hear from Jesus. They filled this void themselves, and created “traditions” they believed were equal to God’s words. Then when Jesus, the Messiah, written about by their beloved Moses, appeared, their “traditions” blinded them to the One revealed by God through Moses. Jesus was clearly not from God (in their judgement) because he profaned the Sabbath. He deliberately healed on the Sabbath, and he told those he healed to also profane the Sabbath (carry their mat on the Sabbath). (These actions were against the “traditions” they held dear, but not against God’s words). Because they believed their “traditions” over God’s words, they were blinded to the truth God and Moses had written them.
Now let’s fast forward hundreds of years to the “traditions” of today. There are at least two “traditions” today. The first says: I have no responsibility for entering into, or keeping, a relationship with Jesus. Everything has been predetermined by God. I have no responsibility for choosing anything.
The second “tradition” says: I have the responsibility to choose to respond to Jesus’ invitation to a relationship with him and I am responsible to choose to keep that relationship by “not rejecting Christ.” (According to my former pastor, The Rev. Dr. Wayne Schmidt, if I reject Christ I will not be capable of enjoying heaven and will spend eternity separated from God).
God’s written words in Romans shed light on these two “traditions.” God wrote through Paul, “those he foreknew he predestined.” First he foreknew, or knew ahead of time, those who would choose to respond to his invitation to a love relationship with him. He has this knowledge because he created time, he can live outside of time, and all of time is laid bare before him. The first “tradition” interprets “foreknowing” as the action of determining. This is wrong. God gives me the freedom to choose because without being able to choose there is no possibility of me having a love relationship with God, which is God’s highest goal for me. He knows the future, he knows what I will choose, but he doesn’t determine what I will choose, I make the choice.
Second, he said he predestined them. Of those that chose Jesus of their own free will, God said their destiny would be to be conformed to the image of his Son. This was God’s choice and it is not conditioned on my performance. I can still choose to sin. But God is greater than me or my ability to sin. (Where sin abounds, grace abounds much more).
But you may say, this kind of love can be abused, it risks being license. And I may reason, if I can sin without consequence why not continuously enjoy the pleasures of sin? Yes I can sin, but it is not without consequence. Because I am now his child, Jesus lovingly makes my life a living hell when I deliberately disobey him. He chastises me. And his correction, though in love, feels just as horrific to me now that I am his child, as when he had punished me in the past for my sins before I became his child.
Jesus risks me choosing to disobey him in order to give me the priceless freedom and security to love him purely. He gives me the freedom to love him apart from the coercion and threat of being separated from him if I reject Him (and all sin is rejecting Jesus). And he gives me the security that I don’t have to depend on myself to stay saved. (And I must depend on him because I have completely proven to myself that apart from Jesus I am completely undependable).
And because Jesus loved me no matter what I did, I learned it is not my behavior that Jesus values most highly. It is me. He loves me. He loves my heart. He loves me just as I am. And he is willing to love me into relationship with him, despite the risks of the abuse of that love. And I will spend eternity with him, not because I can keep him, but because he can keep me.