Why the doctrine of election, fought for by the early fathers of the ELS, is important to youth today.
“You’re doing it wrong!”
Don’t you hear that all the time? This is the voice of judgment. You might hear this voice at school from a teacher or a coach. You might hear it from your parents. You might hear it from one of your peers.
But sometimes it’s your own voice. It’s inside your head. “You’re doing it wrong.” This is the voice of your conscience. This is when you have doubts about yourself or your place in life.
It might be that something isn’t going right in your friendships. It might be that something is “off” in your relationship with your parents. It might be that you can’t seem ﬁnd your purpose or ﬁnd some career path in which you’ll ﬁnd joy, but others have it all ﬁgured out. It might be that you don’t excel in your classes or activities like others do. It might be that you aren’t noticed like others are. So many things can produce doubts inside you that “you aren’t doing it right!”
You’re one of your own harshest judges. You judge based on what you see or feel. Something inside you – your conscience – assumes that God judges you to be lacking, too.
But this is actually a wrongly informed conscience that only takes its knowledge from your own short-termed thoughts and feelings. This comes from introspection – looking inside yourself. The devil loves introspection. He wants you to look inside yourself for evidence of faith or how strong or good you are, so that he can produce doubt – ﬁrst self-doubt, but then to doubt that God is good or kind to you, or to complain and have doubts about how God made you.
A rightly informed conscience doesn’t look inside to see what you are. A rightly formed conscience looks outside yourself and sees what you are in Christ. This is what the Bible’s teaching of election is about. This is what our ELS forefathers were so careful to protect in 1918.
The Bible’s teaching of election (especially Ephesians 1:4-6, 1 Peter 1:3-5, and Romans 8:28-30) says that in eternity, before time began, God elected – called or chose – you to be His own. He chose you by grace, His undeserved love. His election of you was in Christ. Before time began, God saw you in Christ – so that in your life, you could (a) see how God sees you in Christ, and (b) see yourself in Christ, as God sees you.
What came in between? What happened between “before time began” when God called you to be His own, and today when you struggle to not judge yourself harshly, when you struggle not to have doubts? What happened is that “Christ came down from heaven … for our salvation.”
Because Christ came down from heaven to die for you, it shows God’s determination to save you. It shows that God was serious when He called you! And He also had you baptized, and Christ continues to come to you in the preaching of His Word, and in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Always to keep you His own.
This is what rightly forms your conscience to see yourself in Christ as God sees you: being clothed in Jesus’ perfect, pure righteousness; having no fault or sin as you stand before God; acceptable to God, pleasing to Him, beautiful, pure, lovely, and good. You are important, worthy, and valuable to Him – so important that He sent His own Son to die for you! “He made us accepted in the Beloved [Christ]!” (Ephesians 1:6)
The judging voice is not God’s voice. He doesn’t join in with all the judging voices, including yours. He defends you. He’s for you. He pronounces you good, even excellent, for Jesus’ sake. He has a purpose for you that He’ll gradually unfold to you. He not only notices you but rejoices over you (Zephaniah 3:17, Isaiah 65:19).
It all starts with seeing yourself in Christ, just as God sees you. He says: “You are Mine!” Faith says: “Amen! I’ll agree with you, Lord, because You say it!”
Rev. Jerry Gernander
Bethany Lutheran Church