A waitress called Julia is preparing for marriage but she’s marrying the wrong guy. We know it and eventually Julia begins to realize it too. What she doesn’t know is that the right guy is closer than she thinks. He’s a singer who works the same weddings where Julia waitresses. This guy is crazy about her. He thinks about her all the time and he’s torn up that she’s chosen the wrong guy.
But everything turns out fine in the end. On an airplane ride to Vegas, the man who sings at weddings sings of his love for Julia. She responds by declaring her love for him, they kiss and then they wed. Pass the tissues because it’s a great story.
Humans were made to make choices. The reason The Wedding Singer and a thousand other stories resonate is because they are about a choice. Will she? Won’t she? I hope she does.
When God first made man, he said, “You are free to choose what you eat.” And the first thing God asked man to do was choose names for all the animals. The freedom to choose is what makes us human. Take away our God-given freedom and we will fight to get it back. And if we can’t live free history has shown we’d often rather not live at all.
And this is why I have a problem with certain teachings that suggest God has wed us against our wishes. He’s not a wedding singer serenading us on the plane to Vegas. Apparently he married us already, without asking, and without our permission. It’s a bad story.
The arranged marriage of inclusionism
The doctrine of inclusion states that you, I, and every person who ever lived, was saved 2,000 years ago and as a result, we are all in union with Christ, whether we believe it or not. Think of the least godly person you can imagine – say that guy who designs shoe bombs for Al-Qaeda, or Anders Breivik the Norwegian who shot a bunch of children. These men, apparently, are your brothers in Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, and seated in heavenly places with Jesus.
I honestly don’t know how people can say this stuff without blushing. And yet, some are saying exactly this.
Yesterday I got two emails asking for my thoughts on inclusionism. I get asked about this all the time. Here is my response:
Those who claim humanity was saved at the cross are saying, God wed us without asking us. In a shotgun wedding God imposed his will on us and now we are married to Jesus whether we like it or not.
This is an unthinkable and inhuman proposition. And it leads to an obvious question: If God was ever going to take us against our will, why didn’t he do it in the Garden before Adam fell? Why wait until we had made a mess of things?
No, God did not coerce Adam and he will not coerce you. The invitation to trust him is a choice we all get to make. Indeed, it is…
The Choice we were born to make
“But Paul, you are making faith into a work. Nobody is saved by their works of believing.”
It’s true that some define faith as a work and make themselves susceptible to DIY religion. But faith is not a work. Faith is a rest. Faith is a positive response to what God has said or done.
Now here’s the thing: Not everybody responds positively to Jesus but everybody responds. Some respond with love and awe (think Peter and the apostles); others respond with hatred and murder (think Herod and the Pharisees). And some respond with hatred first and love later (think Paul).
What about the agnostics who say, “I haven’t decided yet?” My view is everybody gets a chance, and sometimes many chances, to respond to God’s grace. (I’ll talk about babies and others who are incapable of responding another time.)
If you are old enough to read this, you are old enough to respond to love and grace. This is not rocket science. All of us need love. We were made for it. We crave it. We were hardwired to respond to the unconditional love of our Father. His love is something we need and actually want to receive.
Inclusionists do one of two things with faith; they either dismiss it or say everyone has it. What they should say is everyone has a choice. You can respond with a smile or a frown, a “yes please” or a “no thanks,” a “thy will be done” or a “my will be done.” It’s your choice. Much of life is making choices.
Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. (Act 28:24)
When Paul proclaimed the gospel in Rome, everyone responded. Some positively, others negatively. How did Paul respond to those who responded negatively? Did he say, “It doesn’t matter. You are guys are saved and seated with Christ anyway.” No, he said things like, “Your blood be on your own heads” (Acts 18:6). In Rome he rebuked them for not believing (Acts 28:25-28).
The true wedding singer
Jesus is the wedding singer. He has come to your door to serenade you with the sweet songs of his love and grace. You may respond by opening your heart or shutting your ears but you will respond. In the final analysis, everybody does because this is the Choice we were born for.
Don’t let anyone tell you God smashed down your door and took you against your will and don’t let anyone tell you that responding to grace with gratitude is any sort of work. No, the real work is in resisting the testimony of creation, the miracle of life, and the persuasive pull of the Holy Spirit. Those who open their hearts to Jesus are those who are done working and are ready to put their feet up in the presence of the greatest Lover of all.
Adam took away our choice, but Jesus won it back. It is for freedom that Christ has set you free so stand firm and let no one deprive you of your God-given freedom to choose.
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