Chosen of Christ

John 15:16.---'Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.'

A RIGHT acceptance of this great truth, 'I have chosen you,' means strength and comfort and peace. Our salvation depends on something more stable than ourselves. The words which Christ spoke in the Upper Room to His disciples are meant for their heartening, part of the consolation He gives them for His absence. He is to leave them and they are to be sent out to an unbelieving and a hostile world, and it is for comfort that they should know that they are not picked out haphazardly but chosen by Himself for a great purpose.

Of course there is a sense in which they chose Him, but religious experience unreservedly acknowledges the profounder truth which lies in this statement: 'Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.' There is a calling of God to which the soul of man responds. The religious man feels and knows that it is all God, beginning in His eternal choice, and kept right through by His power. St. Paul expresses it continually, as to the Ephesians: 'God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. . . . In love he foreordained us into adoption as sons.'

As a matter of fact, this is in line with what we know to be true in other directions. This element of necessity is in our lives. We were born into a country and element and family which, with all that means in present influence and the transmission of past history, really settles many things for us. It settles a great deal of what we are and what we can do. Whatever be the place and power of personal choice, we are conditioned and limited by much over which we have no influence. Theoretically we have an unlimited power of choice as to the kind of work we will do in the world and the kind of friendships we will form, but practically much is out of our reach. It is true that in the deepest sense we need never be the victims of our fate, but may be its masters. It is true that in the deepest sense the thing that matters in our work is the spirit in which we do it, the quality of the workman and not the kind of work he does. And in our friendships what really matters is the kind of friend we are and the kind of relation it is made, not the particular persons of the particular grade of society they belong to. Still the great broad element of necessity remains a fact in both of these very important spheres. In the great things of life we seem often to be passive recipients rather than active agents. Emerson said: "My friends have come to me unsought; the great God gave them to me."

It seems even to go deeper than in the matter of opportunity afforded, deep into the fundamental facts of personality to which we give names like that of heredity and temperament and predisposition. Men cloak and conceal their original qualities, but do not destroy them. The thesis of the essay is that no man really changes his character. The tree may be warped or bent, or its growth encouraged, but the grain is the same. It seems to leave us in as hopeless a fix as the old-world doctrine of planetary influence and our fate as lying in our stars, But it really means, what we see to be a fact, that temperamental characteristics remain. It does not mean that they cannot be altered or in any way changed, but that they persist through all change. The melancholy type does not become the mercurial. The man of sanguine temper is never the phlegmatic, and never can quite be. Natural aptitudes remain. Progress means that it should become the best of his kind. Peter, it is true, could never be like John, and James could never be a Nathaniel, and Thomas who doubted could never be Judas who betrayed. But Peter, from being unstable and boastful, became the resolute champion of the Cross, ready to dare all and sacrifice all for the Lord, and Judas need not have succumbed to his covetousness and sold his Master for thirty pieces of silver. Though personal character may be fixed, we can strengthen infirmities and be cured of the defect of our qualities.

In fact the doctrine which underlies our Lord's words is really the doctrine of grace, and the consciousness of this is a matter of experience. Every disciple of Christ knew himself to be chosen and called; and we know it still. The beginning of everything is God's love and grace. If we love Him it is because He first loved us. It is not that we choose, but that we are chosen. Christian faith is simply the acceptance of Christ's love, a love which is there, not dependent on our love or anything in us.

One thing the disciples had in common---obedience to a clear call. The love of Christ reached and touched their wills---it 'constrained' them as it constrained St. Paul; they left all and followed where it called them. Their characters exhibit no frigid consistency; but they were capable of receiving a deep and permanent impression which shaped their lives from that day forward. They acted at once on their new conviction, and never looked back. It was not they who chose Christ, but Christ who chose them.

Also, Christ's choice is for service, not to privilege but to duty. From one aspect it is the selection of an instrument. Of course it is more than that, because a man is not like a dead tool that may be honored by being used for a high purpose. He is conscious of his destiny and makes himself the willing agent of love. There is privilege in it. Who can be blind to the privilege and blessing of the Twelve with their days and nights spent in the company of Jesus, touching His hand and looking into His eyes and hearing His words and communing with His soul? And there is privilege in every high choice. But the sense of privilege and personal blessing are by the way, something that comes along with the chief end. The joy is a sort of by-product, always produced, but not for its own sake. We are chosen to fruitfulness, to being and doing, not to enjoying. The enjoying is not missed, but it comes as a result of the larger end.

Christ calls us to be His fellow-workers. He has not kept the saving of the world in His own hands. Our Lord has been graciously pleased to throw Himself on our loyalty and allow us to have a real share in it. There is work for all of us to do---work for each of us, which will remain undone if we do not do it---work of very various kinds, adapted to our several capacities.

Christians are not called to be saved primarily, but called to be saints. They are not called to a crown of life, but called to be faithful unto death and then to obtain a crown of life. Disciples are chosen that they should go and bring forth fruit. There is no selfishness in religion. And we may know with accuracy the value that we set on Christ by the eagerness with which we are endeavoring to share Him with others. Once we are Christ's, we have entered a kingdom, have become members of a state, and we should feel the thrill of that, which ought to act upon us much as patriotism does. Henceforth this kingdom's interests are our interests; what touches it touches our hearts, and we must be ready at all times and need to work for it, live for it, die for it.

If Christ chooses men does it seem useless to speak about men choosing Christ? By no means. There is a sense in which the disciples chose Christ. We are chosen for the same reason for which we would chose. To try to separate the two processes is to make a futile distinction, like too fine distinctions between choosing a friend and being chosen by him. There is a calling of God to which the soul of man responds, but religion means that the human soul does respond. Faith means the acceptance of a love which is offered us. It does not create the love, but it recognizes it and receives it. If we are sure that Christ has chosen us, it is because we have begun to respond to His love. We love Him who first loved us. His we are, and Him we serve.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha

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