Predestination. "Pre" means beforehand and "destination" refers to where you are going. God has a plan. I want to talk first of all about the plan of God and then how that plan relates to you and me. It is one thing for God to have a plan and another thing to find our place in that plan.
The Plan of God
Think in terms of creation. Why did God create the world? What did He have in mind? Did the plan fall apart to where He had to have a substitute or a backup plan? When man sinned, did it surprise God? Or was it all in the works from the very beginning? Was the plan of salvation a part of the package?
I asked my seminary class, "If you were God would you do it the same way? It seems like the plan got all messed up. Most of the people God planned to save are going to be lost. How would you do things differently?"
You have to understand who God is and what is His character to understand the why of His plan. The great characteristics of God are that He is a God of love and a God of holiness. Being a God of love, He desires those with whom He can fellowship, communicate, and have a relationship. His very nature demands this. So, as a God of love, He created people with whom He could fellowship.
He is now calling out a people for His name. You can read in Revelation 21 about the final phase of all that God planned in creation. The new heavens and the new earth are described with God himself coming to dwell among all who are redeemed. He will be their God and they will be His people. There and then will exist that everlasting relationship of love and fellowship God planned from creation.
Like an old hymn, some people think of heaven as "streets of gold, and harps, and homes, and mansions fair." To them it's a "getting place" where you "get" everything you didn't "get" down here. These folks are waiting for heaven to "get it up there." Sorry, folks; but heaven is a "giving place," not a "getting place." Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). The very essence of heaven is giving ... of us giving ourselves to God in fellowship, and God giving himself to us. This giving is what makes heaven, heaven.
So God, being a God of love, purposed in creation to have a people for His name. Being holy, God knew when He decided to create man that he would fail. Why would man fail? ... Because God gave him the ability to choose. When man was given choice, it afforded him the possibility of saying "No" to God. God knew from the beginning that man would say "No" to Him, so God developed a plan for the salvation of man. His own Son, the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8), was the integral ingredient of the plan. The plan allows us all to be redeemed through the blood of Jesus Christ and to become the children of God. God's plan will be successful in the end!
In God's plan, the word "impute" plays a vital role.
Though we are sinners, when we accept the Christ of His plan, God "imputes" righteousness to us. We are enabled to stand in the presence of our holy God because the holiness of Christ has been credited, "imputed" to us.
To any man who has not accepted the salvation of Jesus Christ, sin is imputed. God puts all mankind into one big category of sinners. The Pharisees did not like this. They objected and said, "God, you can't put us with all those Publicans." God replied, "I'll do what I want to do. I'm the Potter; you're the clay. You don't call the shots. If I choose to impute iniquity or to say, 'All have sinned and come short of the glory of God' (Romans 3:23). That's my business!" To all who accept Jesus, God imputes righteousness; to all others He imputes sin and its resulting judgment in hell fires.
Another biblical word that describes God's plan or purpose is "predestined."
Three times in the Bible this word is used. It appears twice in the first chapter of Ephesians and in Romans 8:29.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will" (Ephesians 1:3-5).
Our salvation is not an afterthought! From the very beginning God knew we would fail. He prepared for it. His plan and His purpose is being worked out and will continue to be worked out. There will be new heavens and a new earth and all God has planned will come to fruition.
"To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he has made us accepted in the beloved. (We were not acceptable, but He imputed righteousness to us!) In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he has abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he has purposed in himself That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his own will" (Ephesians 1:6-11).
This is the purpose ... the predestined plan of God. In the fullness of time He wants to gather everything together in Christ. He wants everyone to be saved. He hasn't excluded anyone from His plan. Because of choice, many will not be partakers of God's plan; but that is not God's desire, God's plan can be thwarted in the lives of people who by disobedience and sin refuse God's plan to save them from their sins.
We must grasp what the purpose of God is and let it influence our life.
Not many Christians have come to grips with the matter of death. They see things only in the framework of time; but God sees everything in the framework of eternity.
When we talk about the purpose of God, His will is that sinners become sons of God. It is God's will that all be saved. This is His predestined goal. It is the "Why" of missions. It compels us to "go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" that sinners might become sons.
The second part of God's plan is that sons become saints. You are called to be saints like Christ. You are forgiven of all your sins so the moment you are saved you are a saint. But from then on it is a matter of "becoming." Becoming like Christ is progressive sanctification. Paul talked about "pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." With the imputed righteousness of Christ, we become saints. Did you know I am Saint Williams? Everybody that has accepted Jesus Christ as Savior shake hands with somebody and say, "Hello. I'm Saint So-and-so."
We're saints, hallelujah! That is why Paul said in Romans 8:1, "There is no condemnation to them that are Christ Jesus." Why no condemnation? Because we know our standing: We know how God looks on us because He sees us through the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Even though I still struggle and work toward being Christlike, in His eyes I am Saint Williams. Devil get behind me; I know who I am! I'm Saint Williams! That's beautiful.
The third part of God's plan takes place now and in eternity: we should be to the praise of his glory. That is why we were created: for fellowship with God to be to the praise of his glory. Throughout eternity we will share His glory. God is glorying in us and we are glorying in God and fellowshipping together. This is the very essence of heaven. It is God's will.
Don't confuse the will of God with some trivial thing ... "I don't know whether I should have red wallpaper or green." That has nothing to do with the will of God. It doesn't make a bit of difference to God what color is your wallpaper, unless that choice hinders you from doing the will of God. If your lifestyle thwarts the will of God, stop it!
God is our Father
God is also our father; and, as a father, He sometimes spoils His children like we do at Christmas. Have you ever watched a child open a package? When he opens the last one he says, "Where's the next one?" We give our children all kinds of trivial things that have nothing to do with our will for them that they mature into responsible adults. But we give them all this trivia waiting for the day when they will grow up and know the difference between what is worthwhile and what is not. I think God is waiting for a lot of us to grow up. He lets us have a lot of things; but don't confuse that with the will of God. The will of God has to do with eternal things ... sinners become sons and sons become saints and all of us become partakers of the glory of God. Don't let the things of this world hinder you from that.
Don't get caught up in "pursuit of happiness." The Bill of Rights is not the Bible. "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" cannot be found in the Bible. It's an American idea. In God's will you won't necessarily be able to pursue happiness. You may have to go to some place of deprivation overseas, or you may be called by God to the suffering inner cities here.
It is good to know what we are doing and what are our spiritual purposes. What will happen if God answers our prayers? What will happen to you? Are you wanting change? Or are you satisfied with your life as it is?
It is very important to begin getting from God what will enable us to be instruments in his hands ... to be more what He wants us to be. Don't just ask God to change you. Pinpoint the areas in your life where change is needed for you to become more Christlike. It's like praying about sins. "Forgive me of all my sin," we might pray. The Lord would respond, "What sins are you talking about?" God wants us to be specific.
It's easy to be comfortable with status quo in a group situation. Churches have comfort norms. When everybody does things the same way, you tend to live in the norm, even when that falls short of what God wants for your life. I call this the comfort center. We can form a comfort center that is far short of what God wants. We can settle for being like each other rather than being like Christ.
Covenant with God and say, "God, I am not going to settle for the norm. There are things I need to take care of in my own life and I am willing to be different. I determine to move toward a higher norm of being Christlike."
I have news for you. It's uncomfortable there! Why? ... because everybody will try to get you back into the circle again so you can all be unChristlike together. You have a decision to make: are you going to go through life letting others dictate what you are going to be, or are you going to ask God to help you be more like Jesus Christ?
Three Kinds of Behavior
Paul lists three kinds of behavior that illustrate what I have just said about the comfort center.
"Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things' sake the wrath of God comes upon the children of disobedience" (Colossians 3:5,6). These are sins that drop off when a person gets saved. They are the gross sins, the sins on which the church community frowns, censors, and for which it disciplines.
Verses 7-9 contain Paul's second list of sins to put off: "anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication, lies." Do Christians get angry? Have you ever told a dirty joke? Do you sometimes tell a lie? These sound like sins from the comfort center! These sins are commonplace in many churches among many who call themselves Christians. These are the sins that cling ... the sins people live with and don't repent of. Such "Christians" point fingers at those who drink and take dope and do all kinds of things not consistent with Christian living; yet they cling to anger, slander, and gossip. Paul says put these sins off too.
Are you beginning to think about some things to pray about in your life ... some things you can begin working on now? Some people do not really want to get rid of these sins. They like to gossip. They enjoy being malicious. They don't truly want to be Christlike. Do you really want to be like Christ? It will separate you from your companions sometimes.
Occasionally we say down in our hearts, "God, I want to be holy, but not that holy." Sorry! Consider your goal. What is God's purpose for you? We have so much to pray about!
Paul's third list describes some things we are to put on (verses 12-16): mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, forbearance, forgiveness, charity, peace. "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly," he urges.
Where are you going from here? Will you act just like you were before ... striving to be like one another? Will you be no better, no worse; saved, but not like Christ because it's a little uncomfortable to be so different from those around?
Be a leader in your determination to become more like Christ. You will find others a little more timid who will follow you. Sometimes the whole bunch will follow someone's lead and move toward Christlikeness. Sometimes the whole bunch moves back.
Why? ... because when it becomes the norm to be spiritual, everyone is spiritual; but when everyone else becomes carnal and moves back to the comfort center we move back with them.
One of the dangers is that the Spirit works in us, and we feel so convicted that we give vent to our guilty feelings in a burst of emotion. We get a release because God does forgive. But we don't let it affect our lives. We feel the emotional burst somehow compensates for our failures; then we go right back to where we were. So, let's determine to pray; and, if you feel there is something you need to deal with, do it! But don't let the fact that you have dealt with it emotionally make you feel everything is accomplished.
You don't get the victory on your knees; you're with the Lord your Commander and you are getting ammunition ... your spiritual supplies. The real victory is out there where you failed before in the presence of your enemy. Come to the altar and get your weapons; then go from here; and when you defeat the enemy where you failed before, that is the beginning point of victory.