Does Jesus offer salvation to me? Is the invitation for me? Or am I not on His list?

I’m teaching a craft class at my church for children right now.  This week, we have three choices of designs they can choose for their project.  I asked each of them last week which design they wanted, so it would be ready for them.

Suppose, though, that I already knew exactly what each child would choose.  Imagine that I got the craft ready, knowing what each would choose, but–without showing them the choices I already knew they would make–I asked them what they wanted.

So, who made the choice for what craft they would do?  It might appear to have been me, as I got the craft ready beforehand, but it was actually them.  Not only did I base what craft they would get on knowing what they would each choose, but I even let them choose without revealing to them beforehand what they were going to choose.

This is an important point.  Although I could have told them beforehand what they were going to choose, I let them discover what they were going to choose for themselves.  This is a simple illustration of a little bit of how the omniscience (all knowingness) of God might work.  Me planning for the craft ahead of time is not fatalism.  I based the choice of craft on what I knew the children would choose; I did not ‘program’ them to choose something, and I even gave them the opportunity to know what they would choose without seeing it first.

Does Jesus already know if we are going to receive Him and spend eternal life in Heaven, or whether we will reject Him and spend eternal death in Hell?  He does.

He could hand our parents cards at birth that said Heaven or Hell.  He could have our eternal destination branded on our cheek.  We could look around and read foreheads and think, “Oh, that person is going to Heaven.  That one is going to Hell.”

There would be no need for evangelism.  No need for missionaries, no outreach to the public, no witnessing to friends.

But isn’t God good!  Thank God, this isn’t what He does!  I have so much respect for God’s kindness  He wants us to know that we choose, and so He gives us a life with total mystery on our part as to our eternal destination.  The only way we solve this mystery is if we receive Jesus Christ.  Otherwise, we will solve it the moment we die and find ourselves in Hell.  But God never tells even one living soul that we are destined for Hell and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Even when Jesus spoke about Judas’ betrayal, He never used his name to identify him.

“But here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me.” (Luke 22:21, NLT)

While they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” (Matthew 26:21, NLT)

Now Jesus was deeply troubled, and he exclaimed, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!” (John 13:21, NLT)

When Judas asked Him if he was going to be the one to betray, let’s listen to what happened.

Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.” (Matthew 26:25, ESV)

Did Judas feel hopelessness?  A feeling of destiny overcoming him?

If he did feel that way (and I doubt he did), it was because he had no faith in Jesus’ teachings.  After all, he had been one of Jesus’ disciples.  He had most likely heard Jesus say,

“Nothing is impossible with respect to any of God’s promises.” (Luke 1:37, NLT)

and,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28, NIV)

Jesus promised–anyone who came to Him would receive His rest.   But Judas did not come to Jesus.  Judas wanted money.  I don’t think he was feeling fated.  I think he was feeling greedy.  We can’t know what thoughts and feelings motivated him to do what he did, only that they were feelings and thoughts from Satan himself.  And rather than resisting Satan, he listened to him.

I think about Jesus’ words,

“You have said so.”

If Judas had wanted to repent, he could have confessed what he’d been planning to do right then and asked Jesus for His forgiveness.  But he didn’t, because he didn’t want to.  His heart was turned towards Satan.

Later, when he realized his sin, he wanted despair.  He did not beg to be forgiven or ask Jesus how he could turn from the path of Hell he was on.  He could have, but he didn’t.  Jesus as still alive when Judas realized his mistake.  He could have run to Jesus in the courtyard of the mock trial, or he could have fallen down at His feet when He was on the cross.  But Judas didn’t.

Maybe he doubted Jesus’ teachings.  Maybe he was so focused on his sin that he didn’t have room for the love of God.  For whatever reason, Judas chose to hang himself rather repent.  He was sorry for what he had done, but he did not ask Jesus to forgive his sin.  Instead, he chose to end his life.

This very moment, God knows where each of us is going to be spending eternity.  But He didn’t make our choice for us.  What a blessing to know we have the free choice to choose eternal life!  Max Lucado in his book He Chose the Nails makes an amazing point.  We complain to God about our metabolism, family makeup, big nose, bad back, and poor singing voice.  But would we take all of the genetic things we didn’t have control over and ask God if He would trade with us and we could choose our biological makeup and He could capriciously choose our eternal destination?  Of course not.  God left the most important choice of our eternal destiny up to us!

God isn’t capricious.  Everything He does, He does for reason.  And His reason is always good.  God isn’t running an inventory list and deciding their needs to be more people in Hell.  The Bible tells us, unequivocally, that God wants everyone to receive forgiveness and spend eternity in Heaven with Him.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, NIV)

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. (1 Timothy 2:1-6, NIV)

And He makes this promise when talking to Israel about His nature:

“As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!” (from Ezekiel 33:11, NIV)

So does Jesus offer salvation to me?  Is the invitation for me?  Or am I not on His list?

What we need to fear is not God’s response to our cry for salvation, but rather whether or not we are crying out for salvation!

God has promised He will receive those who come to Him for rest.  He does not break His Word.  He does not lie.

God made a promise to Abraham. Since he had no one greater on whom to base his oath, he based it on himself. He said, “I will certainly bless you and give you many descendants.” So Abraham received what God promised because he waited patiently for it. When people take oaths, they base their oaths on someone greater than themselves. Their oaths guarantee what they say and end all arguments. God wouldn’t change his plan. He wanted to make this perfectly clear to those who would receive his promise, so he took an oath. God did this so that we would be encouraged. God cannot lie when he takes an oath or makes a promise. These two things can never be changed. Those of us who have taken refuge in him hold on to the confidence we have been given. (Hebrews 6:13-18, GW)

If you sincerely want to believe in Jesus as your Savior, know that He will not fail His promise.  His list includes everyone who receives His gift of salvation, a gift He willingly paid for us when He was on the cross dying for our sins.

The question is not whether or not Jesus is offering His free gift of salvation to you, but whether or not you will receive it.

“WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” (from Romans 10:13, NASB)

‘AND IT SHALL BE THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.’ (Acts 2:21, NASB)

Unnested

I grew up outside of city limits, and then in the country, and one thing we always had was trees.  And with trees, birds.  And with birds, baby birds that had fallen out of the nest.

I grew up in the generation that was told baby birds couldn’t be put back in their nest, because their mama wouldn’t feed them.  So we would always be locked between two unpleasant options: taking the baby bird into our garage to spend the night and die in the morning, or leave it outside in hopes the baby bird would somehow make it back into its nest.   Either way, the baby bird always ended up dead.

The first time we found a baby bird and put it in our garage, I was very optimistic. I was sure we could feed it and love on it and that would be enough.  One day, we could release it back into the wild.  But when I woke up the next morning to excitedly greet my baby bird, my parents told me it had died in the night.

I didn’t understand.  Hadn’t we given it a warm habitat?  Wasn’t our water and food good enough for it?  Why had it died?

I was disillusioned enough that one day, when I found a baby bird out on an autumn day, and my mom said we couldn’t do anything to help it, I left it alone in the hopes it would get back into its next, feet and feet above it—which might as well have been miles and miles–somehow.  I came back outside later and found it dead on the cold earth.

It seems to me like what Romans tells us is we’re all like these baby birds.  We’ve all fallen out of the nest.  We’re all in despair, utterly helpless, doomed to die.

People all around the world are trying to invent cures for the human condition.  Whether through medication or psychology or entertainment or “good works” or career opportunities or romance or social networking or starting a family or anything else, we’re failing miserably.  It’s like we’re placing human souls in our own garage of philosophy, using what we reckon will surely help them, but they are as spiritually starved and abandoned under our care as they were before.

Other people have given up on trying to fix other people.  They walk past people who are in the last stages of spiritual death.   They see them floundering, maybe even pleading for help, but they rationalize these people just can’t be helped if they won’t get themselves to the help they need.

Now this is how the world treats people who are unnested, but what about Christians?  How do we treat people who are unnested?  Surely differently, right?  After all, the key to our Christianity is that we are now nested and we see the whole world unnested.  We hurt for those people.  So what do we do to help?

Sadly, sometimes we’re not much more help than the world.  We, having grown up in the world, believe their false tales about how to nest people back to where they belong, and we try to use their methods.

Sometimes we pick up nonChristians, if you will, and try to fix them ourselves.  We try to love on them enough, care for them enough, that they will be fed and well.  But, it just doesn’t work that way.  No matter how hard we try, we wind up with lost people who were hungrier and closer to death than before.

Sometimes we try “tough love” on nonChristians.  We advise them how they can fix their lives to be right with God.  If they would only quit this, do this, try this, they’d find themselves back up in that nest in no time.  But this is no more good than asking a baby bird with no feathers on its wings to fly back up to its nest.

Sometimes we feel justified in leaving lost people alone because, it seems so far as we can tell, God has abandoned them.  After all, why are they on the ground in the first place?  Maybe they got kicked out of the nest.  Maybe even if we could put them back, God wouldn’t take care of them anyway.

. . About the time I was twelve or thirteen, the idea about unnested baby birds was changing.  There was a new, radical idea experts were offering: put the baby bird back in the nest.  The mother might take care of the bird again, and it was the best chance the little bird had.

I remember the first time I knew of my family placing a baby bird back in the nest.  My grandfather climbed up a ladder and put the bird back in the nest.  To my wonder and joy, the mother accepted the baby bird back and began to care for him again.

The one thing, the only thing, I can do as a Christian that will actually help my lost friends, is bring them back to the nest of God.  I can’t climb a ladder, though, and tuck them back into Heaven.  Then again, I didn’t become saved by a Christian carrying back to God.

No Christian picked me up off the ground and put me back into God’s nest.  There’s no way.  Just like I was struggling for survival because I was a little bird, all of us, Christians and nonChristians, are little birds, too.  One little bird can’t carry another little bird to a tree.

What did happen for me is that I found out through the Word of God and Christians in my life that God is not a helpless parent bird, or a parent bird who would reject us even if we did somehow make it back into His nest.  God is actually eager, eager, to receive us back into His kingdom.  But we can’t get there by letting someone carry us away and put us in a cardboard box in a garage.  And we can’t get there by trying to will ourselves to fly back up to Heaven.  What we have to do, and all we have to do, is tweet Him.

True.

God tells us, from Genesis to Revelation–irrevocably, irrefutably recorded in His Word–that when we call on Him, repenting that we fell out of the nest, and ready to live in His Kingdom according to His Authority, He will cup His hands over us and carry us back to His nest.

We tweet, “Lord, help!”

And He is there.  Faster than the fastest internet connection, He is there.

God promises us three times:

And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved (Joel 2:32a, NIV)

“‘And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” (Peter, quoting Joel, Acts 2:21, NIV)

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Paul, quoting Joel, from Romans 10:13, NIV)

We can’t get back in the nest on our own or by anybody else rescuing us.  We can only get back in the nest by the rescue of God.  This is the message of salvation.  Not Christians saving nonChristians, but Christians testifying that anyone who sincerely tweets God will be placed back in His nest.

Have you tweeted God?  There is nothing mysterious to the tweeting.  The mystery is that God wants to place us back in His nest.

But He does.

And that’s why my Twitter account is with God.

All those who the Father gives me will come to me. Him who comes to me I will in no way throw out. (Jesus, quoted in John 6:37, WEB)

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. (Jesus, quoted in John 10:28, ESV)

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First photograph, baby bird out of nest, by Ben Husmann, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/benhusmann/

Second photograph, baby birds in nest, by Kyle MacKenzie, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/kylemackenzie/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

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