“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit…” (John 15:16)
John 15:16 is oozing with a truth that you see all throughout the Old and New Testaments. These words are probably red in your Bible, meaning that they are the words of Jesus, Himself. Jesus tells us in our verse above that He chose us. We did not choose Him. We must understand this to truly see the beauty of the work of Christ.
God chose us. Ponder that thought for a second. This is not like other choosing. There is little similarity between this choosing and being chosen for a kickball team in grade school. Being picked for a kickball team was based on your skills. The best players were chosen first. Weak players would be picked towards the end, with the possibility of not being picked at all. This is not how God chooses. God chooses us despite our wickedness and rebellion against Him. All of us are weak players. God chooses us anyways.
If this truth is not rooted at the bottom of our faith and joy, then we are selling our faith and joy short. Thinking that we chose God puts a cap on our faith and thankfulness. This usually creates a lukewarm believer. The value of the cross shrinks when we only see half of its beauty. Let me try to explain.
The heart that believes it chose God will be hindered. This heart can truly love the Lord, but it does not see the full capacity of God’s love. It thinks, “I can’t believe Jesus would die for me. I am so glad that I chose to trust Him. If I didn’t, I do not know where I would be.” In a nutshell, this is decent thinking, mixed with a bunch of self-centered effort. This heart acknowledges that Jesus died for the world, but it then puts the responsibility on the seeker to do the rest. This hinders faith. Any responsibility that we put on ourselves for our salvation is false and harmful to our faith and joy. We did not choose Him.
The heart that understands that God chose it will flourish in radical faith and joy. This is when we have an explosive love for the Lord. This heart thinks, “I can’t believe that Jesus would die for me. I was lost and dead without Him. He came to me. If He did not choose me, I would still be in the grave.” Do you see the massive difference? 100% of this thankfulness is put on what Jesus has done. There was no human effort involved. This heart understands what the apostle Paul meant in Colossians 2.
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ.” (Colossians 2:13)
God made you alive. You played no part in this. You were like Lazarus who was so far dead that the tomb started to smell of rotting flesh. But God, in mercy, showed up on the scene. “Lazarus, come out!” This is all Jesus had to say to raise the dead man to life. This is exactly what He does to our dead hearts. He calls us to life. We do not call ourselves to life. I guarantee you that Lazarus was not thinking, “Man, I am glad that I chose God!” Lazarus was stunned by the God who chose to wake up his dead heart. This is the point. Our salvation should always leave us stunned. Dead souls being chosen and made alive are just as much a miracle as a dead man walking.
The second half of John 15:16 says, “so that you might go and bear fruit.” “Christians” who do not bear fruit, in my opinion based on this verse, do not grasp the first half of the verse. I believe there is a direct correlation between knowing that God chose us and bearing fruit. Knowing God chose us sets a person on fire in radical faith. They will lay down anything to tell the world about Jesus. Believing that we chose God leaves a person stuck in self-centered mode. They will continue to live for themselves, leaving little fruit on the tree. God choosing us causes radical, fruit-bearing Christianity. Us choosing God causes comfortable, fruitless “Christianity.”
“As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.” (John 15:19)
Again, Jesus emphasizes His choosing. He also emphasizes what this should do for us. We no longer belong to the world. The tree should be full of fruit. We should not look like the world. If we do, then we probably do not understand how our souls have actually been saved. We did not decide to walk out of the grave. A loving God came and called us out of the grave. Understanding this places our hope, faith, thankfulness, and joy in the God who saved us. Missing this places our hope and faith partly in what Jesus has done, but also partly in what we have done. Which, in reality, is absolutely nothing. One more verse to drive this home.
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6)
Christ died while we were powerless. Not lacking in power…void of any power! He did all of the work. Not 98% of the work, but all of the work. This should set us on mission to spread this Good News. Comfortable “Christianity” does not exist in this theology. Jesus says that He chooses us so that we will bear fruit. Somewhat good news does not push us forward, bearing fruit. Amazing, underserved news does that. Jesus also said that He chose us out of the world. We should not look like the world. Our fruit-covered branches should contrast with the dead branches all around us. If this is not so, we may not see the full beauty of the cross.
I want to leave you by saying two things. First, your condition, outside of Christ, is much worse than you think it is. Second, your salvation, because of Christ, is much more glorious than you think it is. Your soul, apart from Jesus, is as dead as dead gets. You cannot bring it to life. Jesus did. He brought it to life for you. The tomb is no longer your home. Take a moment and think about that. Then, take a moment and thank Him for that. We did not choose Jesus. He chose us. Let this be the foundation of our faith and joy. We will bear much fruit. Let us never be the same.