My mother will periodically send me a devotion that has made an impact on her. The other day she forwarded to all her children the following devotion that precisely defines my theology and forms the substance of what I proclaim to others. I am intentionally holding off on giving the author of this devotion the credit he deserves until people have had a chance to read it and comment on it. However, before I move to another written post at Grace and Truth to You, I will give full credit and a commendation of the author.
The bold letters are my own emphasis. After the devotional, I will make a few brief comments of my own. As always, I am not trying to convince people that I possess the truth (though I believe I do), because there is always the possibility that I could be wrong. I base my beliefs on the inerrant Word of God, but I am not of the opinion that my interpretations and opinions are always correct. And, even though I believe the doctrine in this devotion is the heart of true Christianity, I give allowance for other Christians to disagree and point out my error. Here goes:
God always entices us through love.It is because I believe God's love effectual produces change in undeserving sinners that I hold to the doctrine of particular atonement. In other words, the love of God in Christ Jesus effectually and eternally saves the sinners for whom Christ died.
Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact, God loves you so that you can change.
What empowers change, what makes you desirous of change is the experience of love. It is that inherent experience of love that becomes the engine of change. If the mystics say that one way, they say it a thousand ways.
But because most of our common religion has not been at the mystical level, we’ve been given an inferior message—that God loves me “when” I change (“moralism”). What that does is put it back on you. You’re back to “navel gazing” and you never succeed at that level.
You are never holy enough, pure enough, refined enough, or loving enough.
Whereas, when you fall into God’s mercy, when you fall into God’s great generosity, you find, seemingly from nowhere, this capacity to change.
No one is more surprised than you are. You know it is a gift.
It is the moralist and the legalist who must make salvation something other than the love of God in Christ Jesus. Our convention and churches are filled with moralists who try to convince sinner they must do something to get God to love them. The love of God for sinners arises from His heart like an artesian spring, it is never pulled from his heart by the pump of human effort.
If I believed that Christ died for every sinner that has ever lived, or ever will live, then I would by necessity believe in universalism. The atonement is too powerful, the grace of God too efficacious, and the love of God too omnipotent to not produce the change His love brings to sinners. I believe the Bible teaches that God has chosen to bypass a few sinners and has sovereignly chosen not to give to them His effectual, saving grace. You may ask, "For what reason would God choose to leave sinners in their sin if it was within His power to deliver them?" Or, "Why would God not give to every sinner His transforming love since it is His love that transforms sinners?" I respond: "Who am I to answer for God for His eternal purposes?" (see Romans 9). I can only conjecture that God has mercy on whom he will have mercy and He hardens whom he will harden for the praise of the glory of His justice. In short, His people wouldn't appreciate the grace and mercy they have received unless they knew His justice and righteousness as revealed in the punishment of reprobate sinners.
The Bible clearly teaches that some sinners will experience the righteous judgment of God in hell. It's their fault that they experience God's judgment because it is their volitional sin that brings to them the wise and judicial justice of heaven. God declares that He takes no pleasure in their punishment, but He punishes unredeemed sinners to reveal His attribute of justice. On the other hand, there is a vast, innumerable company of sinners from every tribe, every nation, every kindred and every tongue upon whom God has set His love through Christ Jesus--in short, the world. I believe these elect are saved by the eternal love of God, and as we experience His love, we are transformed by His grace.
Again, whether you agree with me or not is of no concern to me. But if you believe the tenets of the above devotion to be true, your only option is to be a universalist or a particular redemptionist.
Otherwise, you become you fall into the spiritual quicksand of moralism and legalism.
In His Grace,
P.S. The devotion is by Catholic writer and Christian apologist Richard Rohr.