Community Group Study Notes
- Have someone in your group give a brief recap of Sunday's message, highlighting the primary Scripture passages and main idea of the message.
- How did this message confirm and/or correct your previous ideas about God’s mercy?
- Read Malachi 1:2-3 and Romans 9:10-13. How do these passages relate to God’s electing purpose and God’s mercy?
- God’s sovereign choice is based on His electing purpose. How can we find hope in the knowledge that God’s electing purpose is not based on human desire or effort?
- Interact with this quote said by Tim Keller: “Paul is not saying that God has no reasons [in election]. All we are told is that the reasons are not in us.” How does this relate to God’s electing purpose and His mercy?
- In what ways can you apply today’s message to your life?
Spend time reading Romans 9:10-29 daily. Journal your response: what upsets you about these verses? What doesn’t sit well? Ask God to help you shed your spiritual pride. Close your time of reflection worshipping God and thanking him for His mercy.
Part of being a mobilize people is knowing the voice of God. This week, practice hearing God. Take at least 30 minutes to do this challenge. Do your best to not look at your phone or watch to really focus during this time.
Choose from one of the following passages: Psalm 1:1-4, Luke 11:1-13, Isaiah 30:15-21, Psalm 73, Psalm 46
Read: Listen to the text of Scripture you selected by reading out loud slowly, thoughtfully, and repeat up to three times if possible.
Meditate: Reflect on what word, words, phrase, or sentence stands out to you from the text, and write them down.
Pray: Center your prayer/conversation with God about the words and phrases you identified in Reflect. Write out your prayer to God.
Contemplate: Rest in the presence of God, allowing the words revealed from the text to take root. Think about what those words mean to you and why you appreciate them. Praise God for what you learned.
Plan: What action steps do you need to take to obey what God has spoken to you?
Good morning everyone to wherever you're watching from. If you're at our Cheektowaga campus, or right here at our Crosspoint campus or Lockport, or especially my friends at our Niagara falls campus, a good morning and happy Sunday to you, and it's good to be able to open up God's word with you today, and also happy Mother's Day to all the moms in our church. Our congregation is better because you're in it, and I pray that today is a special day for you. I'd ask you to turn to Romans chapter nine in your Bible. We're gonna be continuing our series today that we started last Sunday, and this is called "God's Choice". And we're journeying through Romans 9:10-11. And as we get there, and as you're turning there, maybe I could draw out this analogy for you. If I could compare Bible reading to driving, there are some passages that feel like smooth sailing, right? That you're driving on a freshly paved road, in the middle of summer and it's easygoing. Psalm 23 is like that for me, "the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." It's just one of those passages for me and those things are good, but there are other passages that don't feel the same way. And if I again, could liken it to driving, instead of a freshly paved road, in the middle of summer, there are other passages that feel like we're off-roading in a 98 Corolla, with one wheel missing, after it's rained in the Adirondack mountains, and Romans nine might be one of those passages for some of us and Romans 10 and 11, certainly too. The reason I begin that way is because I don't want us to just stick to what's easy, to just remain in what makes sense on the surface, because we'll never actually develop a depth of relationship with the God that we worship that way. The Psalm 23 passages endear us to God. We adore him when we read, "the Lord is my shepherd." Romans nine humbles us, and it should lead us to fall on our faces and worship him, which is pretty much what I've been doing in preparation for today. Both are needed, both the smooth driving, and the off-roading, one just requires a little more sweat, and that's what we're gonna be today. So I'll invite you to hold onto the steering wheel, like really tight, all right, but we're going somewhere and it's good for us, and it will be good when we end. So in Romans 9:10-13, this is what Paul says. "Not only that, but Rebecca's children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac, yet before the twins were born, or had done anything good or bad, in order that God's purpose in election might stand, not by works, but by him who calls, she, Rebecca, was told the older will serve the younger, just as it is written, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." Paul says, "not only that", well, this is a continuation of what he was talking about in the preceding versus that Pastor Jerry unpack for us last Sunday. And in that passage Paul's point is that God's sovereign choice for Isaac to bear the line of promise, had nothing to do with his physical heritage, but had everything to do with God's sovereign decision. And so he says, "although Isaac was younger and Ishmael was older, God's choice was for Isaac." But maybe anticipating an objection because no doubt, Paul taught these things before. You can tell that he's accustomed to discussing these things with people who know the Old Testament scripture, he often went into the synagogue, in whatever city he went, remember, so he's talked about this before, and so anticipating an objection, an objection to the idea that God chose Isaac. Well, the idea would be of course, God chose Isaac because Ishmael's mother was Hagar. She was an Egyptian. So of course, God chose Isaac. Well, Paul says, "okay, then I'll show you another example that it doesn't have anything to do with his physical heritage, and has everything to do with God's sovereign choice." And then he uses this example of Jacob and Esau. And he says that the twins were in the womb, and before they ever drew a breath, before they ever made a choice of moral consequence, while they remained within Rebecca's womb, God made a choice. Unlike Isaac and Ishmael, who had the same father, but different mothers, here we have the same father, the same mother, conceived at the same time and God makes his choice. He chooses and so the whole passage hinges on a phrase that I read in verse 11, in which we see that God's purpose of election will stand. That God's choice, his call, I'm gonna use all of those terms interchangeably, that his choice will stand, and it will not have anything to do with the human vessels. It didn't have anything to do with Isaac or Ishmael being of one heritage or another, of one race or another, because remember the helpful phrase that Pastor Jerry gave us last Sunday, from NT Wright, "what matters is grace not race." So Jacob and Esau, before they were ever born, before they made a moral choice, not because of their works, God made a choice. So as we talk today about God's electing purpose, God's sovereign decisions. I want to continually remind you why this is good news, because it is good news. And so the first thing that we learn from this passage is that God's electing purpose is not based on works, of what we can do to please God or satisfy God. It's not based on that. It doesn't come from us. So then we read this passage in verse 13, this phrase that is like the first boulder that we're off-roading over in our journey. "Jacob I loved, Esau I hated." Now at first glance, that might be just a really hard thing to fathom God's saying, like, how could this be compatible with who we know God to be? Right? It's kind of like that passage when Jesus is talking with people and someone says, "Hey, your mother's here." This is a great idea to share this on Mother's Day, "Hey, your mother's here", and he says, "who is my mother and my brothers? Is it not the one who does the will of my Father?" And in another time he says, he takes it even further to say, "whoever doesn't hate father or mother, or children or spouse is not worthy to be my disciple." That's a hard thing to hear and it doesn't on the surface compute with how we typically think of Jesus, the soft spoken, beside still waters, Jesus. And so when we read that, God says, "Jacob I loved, Esau I hated." It's no less difficult for us to process. How could this not be a contradiction of everything else I know about God? But there's no contradictions within God. So we have to press in, we have to lean in further. So what is Paul doing? Well, he's quoting from the book of Malachi chapter one. And in Malachi, before we get to those verses, it's helpful to know that the prophet Malachi was given a message to the Jews who had returned from exile to Jerusalem, and had seen the temple rebuilt. But even after all of that, they still rejected God. And so in Malachi, look with me at these couple verses, the verses two and three of Malachi chapter one says, "I loved you says the Lord but you ask, how have you loved us? Was not Esau Jacob's brother? Declares the Lord, yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I've hated, and I've turned his hill country into a wasteland, and left his inheritance to the desert jackals." Now it's clear from that context, that God's prophetic messages to Israel and to Edom, the nations that descended from Jacob and Esau, that's true but that does not negate the personal nature of what is being said, and certainly what's being said in Romans nine, that this doesn't just apply to nations, this applies to people. And so in Malachi, the people of Israel say to God, "how have you loved us? I've loved you, Israel, God says, how have you loved us?" Can you imagine? I've loved you, really though? Have you? Prove it, I mean, can you imagine the pain of your own offspring dismissing your love for them? Some of you don't have to imagine that. And the pain that you've experienced, real, gives you a taste of what God has experienced. I've loved you, Israel. How, what have you ever done for me? And as Paul quotes that phrase, "Jacob I loved, Esau I hated." He's talking to people who are familiar with the Old Testament, and the meaning is not lost on them because he's already said in Romans chapter nine, all of the things that God did uniquely for Israel, we looked at them a week ago, at the second part of verse four, and the first part of verse five in Romans nine, "theirs is the adoption to son ship, theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah." I've loved you Israel, prove it. I gave you all of that, Jacob I loved. I gave you all of that and you have still rejected me. That's because what we realize about God's sovereign choice is that although God makes his electing purposes as he chooses, and his electing purpose will stand, that within that there are individual responsibilities because God chose Israel, but not all who are from Israel are Israel. I've loved you. I've given you all of this. He says to the Israelite, and yet you've still rejected me. So when we read "Jacob I loved, Esau I hated", don't pause on, well, isn't that preferential favoritism? Well, we already know there's no partiality with God so it can't be that. So what this is, I think, is a declaration of judgment, that even after all of this, Jacob still turned his back, but God's word will not fail, his promise will stand, his purpose will stand, and nothing will thwart his purposes. So when we see that God's electing purpose will stand, what we learn is that some how, some way, and we'll unpack a little bit more of this as we go along, some how, some way, when God says, "Jacob I loved" he means to say, he means Jacob, I chose. And when he says "Esau I hated", were to interpret hate as not a despising or contempt, but he rejected him. He rejected Esau and he chose Jacob. But after all of this, with all that Israel had, there's the ancestry of the Messiah, and they still turn their backs on him. I think that this is a point that Paul introduced earlier in Romans, in Romans chapter three, look at these verses in Romans 3:9-12, it says, "what shall we conclude then, do we have any advantage? Do we Jews have any advantage? Paul says, not at all for we've already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin, as it is written, there is no one righteous, not even one, there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God, all have turned away, they have together become worthless, there is no one who does good, not even one." There is no one who does good, all are under the deep control of sin that the tentacles of sin bind tightly, that the roots of sin run deep, and that apart from God's intervening work, Romans 3:9-12 is a summary of all of humanity. There is no one who does what is good, not even one. Even the Jew with all of the advantage, under sin, the Gentile who had none of the advantage, under sin, all are under that label. So though God's choice was for Israel, not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. But pay close attention to a verse we looked at last time, verse six of chapter nine. "It is not as though God's word had failed." We must keep this at the foreground of our minds. Has God failed? No, he hasn't. Has his purpose failed? No, his electing purpose will stand. And the reason it will stand, and the reason that this is good news is because it's not based on works. It's not based on anything in the people that he chose. It's based on his divine and sovereign choice. But our text continues in verse 14 of Romans nine and it says this, "what then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all, for he says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. It does not therefore depend on human desire or effort, but on God's mercy, for scripture says to Pharaoh, I raised you up for this very purpose that I might display my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. Therefore, God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden." This too, is a difficult text. God has mercy on whom he will have mercy and he hardens who he wants to harden, but what stands out and what should be first thing we notice is that this electing purpose that I told you was good news, is not dependent, Paul says, "on human desire or effort." Some translations say, "it's not because of the one who wills or the one who runs" meaning it doesn't come from really good emotions about God or really good deeds in the presence of God. Your election is not based on you, but God's sovereign choice is based on his electing purpose. And you say, Jonathan, you keep using this phrase, God's electing purpose. When are we gonna find out what that is? And I will tell you that we get a glimpse of it at the end of this passage, but we don't know fully from this passage, what that is. We just know that because it flows from God, it must be consistent with everything else that he's revealed about himself. So it must be good. It must be Holy. It must be just. It must be love. Whatever that purpose is and we'll get a little bit of it, it must be consistent with who he has revealed himself to be, but he says, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy." Whatever God's choice, remember last week? Whatever God's choice, he is always faithful to his promise, therefore God's choice will ensure that he keeps his promise to be merciful. Here's what I mean. God says, "I will have mercy." That is a promise. Before you get caught up on any other part of these verses that we just read. I hope that those words jump out at you. "I will have mercy." God is determined to be merciful, and if his electing purpose was dependent on your desire or effort or on mine, I would routinely find myself ineligible to receive his mercy and so would you, you and I would routinely find ourselves in a place where DQ, disqualified, because if God's choice for us was based on our effort, our good works, something we could do to manufacture satisfaction with the Father, we'd be outta luck and it could stand to reason, if we take Romans three seriously enough and we should, there is no one who does what is good, there is no one righteous, not even one, all of humanity, apart from God's intervening work, all of humanity would be ineligible for his mercy, and then what would that do to God's promise? God says, "I will have mercy if you earn it", and none of us can earn it, therefore he doesn't have mercy, therefore God is a liar. Not true. So he says, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy." I will make good on my promise, because if it was dependent on human beings, we would nullify the promise, if we could even do such a thing, he says, "I'm not gonna let that happen, I will have mercy. I will do it." Whatever God's choice he is always faithful to his promises. And then we must understand that when he brings up Pharaoh, you're thinking, where did Pharaoh come from here? Well, you got Moses and Pharaoh, this incredible story, true story, in Exodus, facing off of the unlikely person who sought to disqualify himself, God, you might want someone else, and Pharaoh the most powerful person in the known world at the time, and he says, "for this reason, I raised you up Pharaoh, that I might display my power in you, and that I might make my name famous." Now, if you're not super familiar with the Moses and Pharaoh story, real quick, the 30 second recap, Moses goes to Pharaoh to release the Israelite from bondage and slavery, and Pharaoh says, "no, why would I give up all this free labor?" And so time after time, each successive occurrence that Pharaoh says, "no", God sends plague after plague after plague, to shake loose the stronghold that Pharaoh thinks he has on the Israelites, and every time Pharaoh says, "no", the plague intensifies and Paul tells us that this fits in with the discussion on God's sovereign choice, because God in his sovereign wisdom uses Pharaoh as a demonstration of his power. You know, the Egyptians worshiped many gods, one of which was the god Ra, the god of the sun, and so the ninth plague after eight no's from Pharaoh, the ninth plague is a plague of darkness. What's the message? What's the message to Egypt? You worship the god of the sun or so you think, but the God who is declaring freedom and independence for his people just demonstrated his power, and his name will be made famous. He will proclaim his name in all of the earth. He will show how powerful he is. He is not gonna be outdone by this so-called lower case G, god, Ra. But Yahweh the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the I Am, who is the I Am, he alone is God. Therefore God says, "I will have compassion, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, but I will harden whom I harden." So who hardened Pharaoh's heart? We don't have all the time to unpack every instance in the book of Exodus of all the times that Pharaoh's heart was hardened. Sometimes it says, "Pharaoh hardened his heart." Other times it says, "Pharaoh's heart was hardened." And then still other times it says, "and God hardened Pharaoh's heart." So which one? Yes, all of the above. Why? Why did God do this? The best thing I can say is so that his electing purpose would stand. The best answer I could give from this text is that, so it would be clear, that he would display his power, and his name would be known. Nothing will stop this. And what happens 40 years after the Exodus? If you were to look in Joshua, you'd see people talking about, we've heard what you did to Egypt, we heard what your God did to Pharaoh, and our hearts melted when we heard, people are still talking about it. That's because God's purpose will stand. So we might have a dilemma that's created for us in this, because we don't fully understand all of the why. Why would God make this choice and not that one? Why would God choose this and not that? Why is God's sovereign choice here and not here? Tim Keller said something that was helpful to me, and it's this. "Paul is not saying that God has no reasons in election, it's not eenie meenie miney mo, all we are told is that the reasons are not us." It's not that God has no reasons, but that his reasons are not in us and what we could do, because you know, the other side of the coin of me saying, it's not by works, that you're chosen, you know the other side of that coin, when I say, "you can't do enough good to get to God", how often do we miss the other side of that coin? You can't do enough bad to get yourself away from his saving reach. You can't put yourself outside of his sovereign arms. You can't exclude yourself. You can't disqualify yourself at infinitum. You can't say to me, "Jonathan, I know there's a message of grace and forgiveness, but that's for some other people, because I've already done too much bad." No, if it's not by works, it's not by works, good or bad. It means his purpose will stand and whatever we learn about his purpose, we know that at least at a piece of it, it involves making his glory known in the world, and we might think to ourselves, God, why don't you just, why don't you just come back and split the sky open, and stand at the top of a really tall mountain, or get every camera from CNN and Fox News and MSNBC even, and get them on Jesus coming back, right? Then people will know that you are who you say you are. God, why don't you choose this? Then your glory would be known, but he hasn't chosen that, at least not yet. Why? Because in the sovereign, wise, perfect mind of God, these choices, these choices make his glory known in a way that he wants, and we have to rest in that as hard as that might be. The text continues in verse 19, and again, Paul's introducing some objectors, 'cause you could tell he's had this conversation before. He's like, yeah, I know one of you is gonna say to me, one of you will say to me, "then why does God still blame us for who is able to resist his will?" Just pause there. "Why does God still blame us for who's able to resist his will?" Might be asking that question. If this is God's choice, who's gonna resist? Verse 20. "But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, why did you make me like this? Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay, some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?" Let's take that last question first. Does not the potter have the right? He does. Does the potter have the right? Yes. And let's take it one step further. The question behind the question, does the potter know better? He does. Who are you? If I could say that with as much love and as much grace as is needed, who are you? And who am I? You say it right back to me. Who are you Jonathan? Clay. And who is he? The potter. Sometimes we get turned around and think that it's our job to mold God into a presentable vessel for the world, that's backwards. Well maybe I could just phrase it in such a way that my co-workers wouldn't, you know, hate it. You know, like maybe I could just, maybe Jesus just needs some PR, right? Like that's just, right? It's okay, these are heavy things so if we don't laugh, I'm not gonna make it, all right? So I need you with me. I know Niagara Falls is with me, right? They're used to this brand of humor or not. It's not our job to mold God into a presentable vessel. It's his job to mold us, to become willing vessels, for we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us. So I say this lovingly as Paul would, who are you? Who am I? Remember that Paul writes this through tears as he began Romans nine, by saying, "I wish that I were anathema." He's not frivolous, Paul's not being flippant, this grieves him, but we must be careful not to stand in judgment over God as we read this, is our sense of fairness, superior to his? Is our sense of justice superior to his? Is our sense of mercy superior? What have I ever done to show you mercy? Forgave you when you said something harsh to me? I hope. But what has God done to show you his mercy? He sent his son to die. No one can just say, "that's not right", because they haven't done what God has done. No one's gone to the lengths that God has done. The reason that God's electing purpose is good news is because it teaches us that we are in the safe hands of the sovereign potter, and he knows what's best, and there's no better place to be than in his sovereign hands. John Stott scholar, theologian said, "if anybody's lost, the blame is theirs. But if anybody is saved, the credit is Gods." No one can say, "I didn't have a chance, I didn't know, or I didn't take it seriously." No one can say, "it's not my fault." No one can say, "but I did blank." No, there's no one who does what is good, not even one. No one can say, "my good outweighed my bad." If anyone's lost, the blame is theirs, if anyone is saved, the credit is God's. This passage teaches us a lot of good things and as Paul starts to land this plane, look with me at verses 22 and 23. He says, "what if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known bore with great patience, the objects of his wrath, prepared for destruction. What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory." And I'm gonna finish this sentence in a second when we get to verse 24, but I wanted to pause here. What if, what if God did this? What if God did this to show his mercy? Two things comfort me there. One, even Paul is by the inspiration of the Spirit, writing and even he is saying, "what if this is a part of God's electing purpose?" That's one part that's comforting. 'Cause I'm looking at this text and I'm trying to say, "God, what is your electing purpose for?" And Paul says, "what if God did it this way?" The other part that's comforting to me is, it reminds me, I don't know everything, and neither do you. So for us to take that place of moral superiority with God is really out of ignorance. Well, what if God did it this way to show his power? And he says, "what if God did this to bear with great patience?" God is patient. He never gives everyone quite what they deserve because there are billions of people on this planet who draw a breath today, and are in active enmity with him, and they draw another breath and they draw another breath, and they draw another breath, and he doesn't obliterate their hatred for him. He never gives everyone quite what we deserve. He is patient. He always will be. This helps us realize there's more to the story than we think we know, that for us to take a seat of arrogance over Romans nine is really just not a good idea. Well, how's God gonna make all of this work out? How's he gonna sort this? I'm asking that question, I hope you are. How does this all resolve? And I will admit to you, I don't know fully, but I agree with this statement I read by J Oswald Sanders says this, "what will amaze us as we look backwards from eternity is not the severity of God's justice, but the greatness of his mercy." When we stand before God complete, free of the stains of sin, free of the rebellion in our own hearts, and he peels back the curtain on your life, you'll say, "so that was why, so that was why." For the questions that don't have answers, know this friends, God is sovereign, you will be amazed, I will be amazed by his mercy. Our text concludes this way in verses 24 to 29, as Paul quotes from the Old Testament, he's gonna cite four Old Testament passages here, and he says, "even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles, as he says in Hosea, I will call them my people who are not my people, and I would call her my loved one, who's not my loved one, and in the very place where it was said to them, you are not my people, there they will be called children of the living God, and Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnants will be saved." Remember not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. "For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality. It is just as Isaiah said previously, unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would've become like Sodom, we would've been like Gomorrah." One of the last things that this passage teaches us about God's electing purpose is that without it, we would be devastated, we would be decimated, we would be destroyed, without God's sovereign choice, no one is saved. We would've been like Sodom and Gomorrah, and let me fill in the blank for you, and we would have deserved it because of our sin. Some have called this, the surprising reversal passage, the surprising reversal. Those who are not mine, will be mine. Those who were not loved, my beloved. Those who were not my offspring, children of the living God. We would do well to let these statements rest heavily on us. Because apart from Jesus, we're not his, we're not loved, we have no inheritance, no descendants, spiritually speaking, we're dead. But with Jesus, we are called his, we are called his beloved. That's a term of intimacy. We are called his children. We're his. So what is our response? Well what would your response be to someone who saved you? You throw your arms around them and you say, "thank you." It would be good for us to remember that we are clay. There's a collection of essays By CS Lewis, who, if you hear just about anyone at The Chapel preach, you hear someone quote, CS Lewis, doesn't matter who, because we all have been affected meaningfully by the writings of CS Lewis. But this collection of essays is called, "God in the Dock", and it takes its title from one of these essays, "in the dock" is just a British phrase, by the way, of describing someone who's put on trial. So you're being accused of a crime and you're in the dock, you have to speak for yourself, testify for yourself, right? And in this essay, CS Lewis says this, he says, "the ancient man approached God, or even the gods as the accused person approaches his judge, for the modern man, the roles are reversed, he is the judge, God is in the dock. He's quite a kindly judge, if God should have a reasonable defense for being the God who permits war, poverty and disease, he's ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God's acquittal. But the important thing is that for the modern man, man is on the bench and God is in the dock." What Lewis is saying is that we've gotten it all upside down, and he said this about the modern man in the 1940s. The modern man thinks that you're approaching God is not of guilty sinner, seeking mercy from a judge, but as a judge, hearing the testimony of someone who's got a lot of explaining to do, and Lewis says, "this is backwards, this is upside down." Or as Paul says, "who are you? Who am I?" Because we put God on trial for statements like Romans nine, and we've got it all backwards. He's not in the dock. He's on the bench. And apart from the merciful act of God, the sentence is death, "for the wages of sin is death", Roman six tells us. So it would not be wise for us to bust into the courtroom and act like we know better than God, we don't. But even with that heart posture, that if someone treated you that way, how easy would it be to just write them off? See ya, like, I don't have any time for that. That's not who God is because God doesn't just provide mercy to the people who act like they're sorry. He sends his son to a cross to take judgment, to take hell, to take death on himself, that he didn't deserve, and he did that so that the offer could be made to all of humanity, whosoever will, come and drink. So we must not forget where we stand, or maybe your response is less accusatory, like the "God in the dock" example, and just more like I can't wrap my mind around it, I'm just still not seeing it. May I challenge you to ask yourself what upsets you about these verses? What doesn't sit well with you? Could it be, Could it be that after you've given your life to follow Jesus, you've been walking with him for several years, he's been instilling in you, the fruit of the Spirit, you've been journeying, you've been making obedient decisions, and you've experienced the blessing of God, of knowing him deeply. Could it be that after all this time, there is still the residue of the flesh within you? There's still the mold of spiritual pride, clinging to the walls of your heart? Could it be that when I say, "God made a choice", that disrupts something that comes from pride? Because I have decided to follow Jesus, but them, they're off the rails. Could it be that we haven't unearthed all of the pride that's within us, that still wants a little bit of credit, that I found God, as if he was lost? Could it be that our reaction to Romans nine, isn't a reaction to whether or not it's true, but to whether or not we want it to be? So search your heart as I am mine, God pour contempt on all my pride. This is you, this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. Karl Barth, a German theologian, said this about this passage, "the more a man finds these texts", Romans 9, 10, 11, "to be harsh, the more he is wedded to his own righteousness." The more we still hang onto, well I decide, that I, I found him, I'm the one, we gotta get that I, out of it and land here, that apart from God's mercy, apart from his grace, we're dead in our sin. But thanks be to God for his indescribable gift, for his sovereign choice of plucking me and you out of the mire of sin, and setting our feet on solid ground. He is deserving to be praised because of this. So let me condense everything I've said today into a singular, not sticky or pithy statement. This is not tweetable, but it's true. Here it is. God's electing purpose removes all possibility of pride in salvation, but removes none of the responsibility to receive it. Removes all possibility of pride. What could I possibly take credit for? My good deeds? My heritage? I grew up in a Christian home. My dad's a pastor. I grew up at The Chapel. That's a pretty decent pedigree. No, it doesn't stand at the judgment. So God's electing purpose removes all possibility of pride, but removes none of my responsibility to receive this gift, to receive his grace. And that's true for all of us, that each one of us has a responsibility that in no way, does Romans nine contradict anywhere else in scripture, where we are told, that we have a responsibility to respond because the scripture also says, "today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart, do not." Receive his grace. Let's bow together for prayer, With your heads bowed and your eyes closed. I know that we've plumbed the depths of God's word in some ways today, and stretched a bit from what maybe we usually do in our Bible reading, But it's been good for us, and I hope that my promise at the beginning that it will be good for us, is true. That God's electing purpose, it's not because of works, not because of the good things that you've done, nor does God make a choice because of the bad things that you've done, he makes a choice and he is sovereign and he is wise, and it is good for us to be in his hands, moldable as clay. But here's a truth that we must all understand. No one who comes to Jesus will ever be turned away, his arms are open wide to you, and in the mind of God and only in God's mind, he is able to reconcile these things that are difficult for us, that he has made this choice, and yet the offer is valid for you today. As I told you, this leads us to worship him, or at least it should, because his ways, not our ways, his thoughts, not our thoughts, and today, if you hear God's voice calling to you, that you're not his child, that you're far from him, he offers you this opportunity, and where else will you find an opportunity like this? Come to me, come to me, I will call you my own, I will shower you with my love, I will make you my people, come to him. So when we dismiss in a moment, if that's where you're at today, I'd invite you to come by the fireside room, just across the atrium. Some pastors and prayer partners are there and they'd love to spend a moment praying with you, and encouraging you to follow Christ, learning what it means to be a disciple, and to be forgiven of sin, to have eternal life. So, Father, I pray that as we've walked up to the precipice of some pretty daunting mountains in your word today, that we would remember, you are still a God who is near, you are so completely other, you are so wholly other than us, and yet you come near, what grace to us, what mercy you've shown, and if it weren't for you, apart from your decision, your will to reveal yourself, God, where would we be? So we stop and we say, "thank you for your grace", and I pray that we would be agents of your grace wherever you take us today and this week, we pray this in Christ's name, amen.