The True Roots of Belief and Unbelief, John 6:35-51


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“The True Roots of Belief and Unbelief”

John 6:35-51

October 6, 2019

Faith Presbyterian Church – Morning Service

Pr. Nicoletti

 

Our Scripture reading this morning is from The Gospel of John, chapter six, verses thirty-five through fifty-one. Jesus continues in this text to converse with the crowd of over five thousand that he has miraculously fed. They have seen the miraculous sign that he did, they have followed him across the sea, and now, as he tells them who he is, they are insisting that he perform more signs before they will believe him. And it is in the midst of that discussion that we drop in in verse thirty-five.

 

With that said, please listen carefully, for this is God’s word for us this morning.

 

6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.

 

This is the word of the Lord. (Thanks be to God.)

 

“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” [1 Peter 1:24-25]

 

Let’s pray …

 

Lord, we do believe that your word

is firmly fixed forever, with you, in the heavens.

Your faithfulness endures to all generations,

you have made this world and it stands as you will it to.

Lord, as your people, help us to never forget your precepts,

because by them you have given us life.

Lord, we are yours, save us,

for we have sought your ways.

Grant us life now through this your word.

In Jesus’s name. Amen

[Based on Psalm 119:89, 90, 93, 94]

 

As we come to our text this morning, we need to recognize that the key question underlying this portion of the conversation is: “Why doesn’t the crowd believe?”

 

As we said, they have seen Jesus perform the miraculous sign of feeding over five thousand people with five loaves and two fish. They have also seen him heal the sick. They have been with him and have presumably heard at least some of his teaching.

 

But back in verse twenty-nine, when Jesus called on them to believe in him, they balked, and demanded instead another sign. “What sign do you do, that we may see and believe you?” they asked. The implication of the question is that at this point they do not believe him.

 

But why not? Has Jesus does something wrong? Has he failed in his teaching or instruction? Have his miraculous signs fallen short? Does the crowd lack enough information to believe? Has Jesus failed in his ministry and teaching?

 

And the answer is: Well, of course not. Jesus is the perfect teacher, the perfect healer – he is the great shepherd.

 

And that fact should make us even more alarmed. Because our text is showing us that sinful and fallen human beings – human beings whose hearts are in rebellion against God – even if they see Jesus and his works … left to themselves, they still will not believe. For this crowd has seen, and as Jesus points out in verse thirty-six, they still do not believe.

 

The unbelief of the crowd confronts us with the fact that unbelief towards Christ is not, at its root, caused by lack of knowledge or lack of direct empirical evidence. Unbelief can come up even in those who see the truth with their own eyes. They see … but they still reject Jesus’s claims about who he is.

 

What we see in the crowd in our text is that because of our fallen nature as human beings – because of our selfishness and self-centeredness, left to ourselves we will willfully reject God as he is.

 

Left to ourselves, we, as sinful human beings, will willfully reject God as he is.

 

And this isn’t the only time in the Gospels that Jesus has made this point.

 

In Luke 16 Jesus tells a parable about two men – one who believes and ends up in heaven, and another who lives in rebellion and ends up in hell. And towards the end of the parable, Jesus says something astounding.

 

The man in hell is talking to Abraham, who is in heaven, and after an initial exchange, the man in hell asks Abraham to send another man in heaven to his father’s house. “For,” he says, “I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.”

 

Now, what we need to notice is that the man in hell is essentially saying: “I did not have enough information, and that’s what really brought me here. But if you send a man from the dead, then my brothers will have enough information, and then they will believe, and be saved.”

 

Jesus in his parable then tells us this: “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And [the man in hell] said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ [Abraham] said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

 

It is very easy to think like this man in hell – like the crowd in our text this morning. It is very easy to think that if we just had some more information, then we could believe – then we would believe. Then our faith would be stronger.

 

But the fact is that we believe incredible things every day on less evidence than we have concerning the identity of Christ.

 

For example: You believe in germ theory, but few of you have ever seen a germ with your own eyes. You believe the world is made of atoms, but you haven’t seen that either. You believe the earth is round, but few if any of you have done experiments to prove it, or have gone into space to observe it yourself. You believe things about what you are made of, where you live, and what could be a threat to your life, and you believe it all while seeing little to no evidence with your own eyes.

 

And so, when a non-Christian (whether you or someone you know), comes to the gospel, when a non-Christian comes to the claims of Christ about who he is, and demands more evidence – says that they need more evidence before it is reasonable for them to believe … Jesus tells them they are wrong.

 

Jesus tells the non-believer that if the Scriptures do not convince you to believe, then even if a man rose from the dead and proclaimed the same truth to you, even then you still would not believe it.

 

And if you disagree, the Bible directs you to consider the very crowd in our passage this morning. They saw Jesus miraculously feed over five-thousand people with those five small loaves and two small fish. They saw … and they still did not believe.

 

Which, Jesus reminds us in verse forty-nine, just points back to the Israelites of the exodus, who saw sign and wonder after stupendous sign and wonder, and again and again they still failed to trust in the God who had rescued them from Egypt.

 

The root problem of the unbelieving human heart, the Bible shows us, is not that it lacks information, but that it can be summed up better by the words of one of Douglas Adams’s characters who at one point blurts out: “I don’t believe it. Prove it to me and I still won’t believe it.” [Adams, 376]

 

Unbelief, the Bible tells us, is not an informational or intellectual problem, it is a moral problem. It is a problem of desire.

 

The root of unbelief is that on their own, people don’t want to believe that the Christian message is true.

 

And any claims that other reasons are what lie at the root of unbelief are forms of self-delusion.

 

And lest this seem like an argument only a convinced Christian would make, there are intelligent non-Christians who admit their rejection of Christianity is based on their desire, not on the information they have. There are few of them, to be sure – but they do exist.

 

One of those honestly self-aware atheists is Thomas Nagel, an emeritus professor of philosophy at New York University.

 

I mentioned Thomas Nagel a few weeks ago in an evening sermon on the sword of Goliath and plundering the Egyptians – I mentioned how his book Mind and Cosmos has many very helpful insights for Christians to use in responding to the reductionistic materialism and Neo-Darwinism of folks like Richard Dawkins.

 

But Thomas Nagel is not a Christian. Thomas Nagel is an atheist. But an impressively self-aware one.

 

In Mind and Cosmos Nagel identifies three possible explanations of how the universe, as it is, has emerged. One is that through various causes got it to where it is by chance. A second is that a Being greater than and outside of the universe (in other words, God) created the cosmos with the intention that it should be as it is. A third is that there is something that is part of the nature of the universe that pulls it along a certain trajectory to be what it has become – a teleological force in the universe.

 

Nagel’s book argues against the possibility that the world just happened through random and natural causes to become what it is. This leaves two possibilities: either the universe was made by God with intention, or some impersonal force within the universe determines its destination – its telos. Nagel admits that while he does not himself have an explanation of the universe’s direction without God, it is still the atheistic explanation that he will choose, rather than one that involves God. [Nagel, Mind and Cosmos, 26, 58, 95, 121]

 

And in a moment of refreshing honesty, Nagel writes: “That, at any rate, is my ungrounded intellectual preference.” [Nagel, Mind and Cosmos, 26]

 

Nagel rejects the idea of God as an explanation. But he is honest enough to admit that, not only is his rejection based on preference – but his preference is not grounded in any evidence or argumentation. It is rooted in his desire.

 

And in another book titled The Last Word Nagel has been even more honest. There he writes about the topic of fear of religion – not fear of bad things religion may cause, but fear of religion itself. And then he says: “I speak from experience, being subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true,” he writes, “and [I] am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.” [Nagel, The Last Word, 130 (Emphasis added.)]

 

Nagel is remarkably honest. He knows his lack of belief is rooted in a moral choice – it’s rooted in his desire – it’s rooted in the fact that he does not want the Christian message to be true. And in a footnote, he even wonders aloud how anyone could come at this question of God’s existence and not be driven largely by desire (whether they believe in God or not).

 

Unbelief in the Christian message, unbelief in who Jesus says he is, is fundamentally a heart issue, not a head issue – it is fundamentally a moral issue, not an intellectual issue – it is at its root an issue of desire, not of evidence.

 

And because we are fallen, because human beings do not want to have to answer to such a God, because they do not want to have to live under such a King, left to ourselves we will willfully reject God as he is.

 

That’s what we see in our text. Now … what does that mean for us?

 

We might start with what it means for non-Christians. And this is important whether you are a non-Christian who is here this morning, or if you are a Christian who is or will be sharing the gospel with a non-Christian. (Which hopefully covers everyone else here.)

 

In thinking about the problem of unbelief, our text pushes you to consider what the true root of that unbelief is.

 

Take a moment to think about how you see people in our culture and political world make decisions about what is true and what is not. We can often see in others the tendency to believe the stories that they want to be true, and to disbelieve the stories they don’t want to be true. Whenever a controversial news story breaks in our culture I am always dumbfounded by how quickly people line up on each side – people who have no direct access to the facts, but are still certain they know what really happened … and it just so happens that their interpretation lines up exactly with what they want to be true. Their desire drives their belief.

 

Our text this morning is saying that the way that happens in our political climate is just a faint echo of the much deeper way that it happens in our unbelief towards God.

 

And so, if you are not a Christian, this text challenges you to look down deep, under your unbelief, and face honestly what desire lies at the root of that unbelief.

 

And for Christians, who are called to present the gospel to non-Christians: you too need to keep this truth in mind as well – you need to remember that the root cause of the unbelief of the one you minister to is not lack of information, but a willful rejection, at a heart level, of God as he is.

 

Now, even with that said, of course as a Christian you are to lovingly proclaim the gospel to those who do not believe. You are to defend the faith against their objections. You are to give them a reason for the hope you have. All of that – all the information we present to others regarding the gospel – that is important if they are to come to faith, it is necessary for them to come to belief. It is necessary … but it is not sufficient. It is not enough by itself.

 

And we know that because in our text this morning, even the teaching of Jesus Christ was not enough by itself to bring this crowd to faith. And no matter how hard you try, you will never be a better teacher or preacher than Jesus.

 

It is part of our calling as Christians to be ready and eager to present our faith to others. But our text reminds us that we must always know that the belief of those we speak to is not determined by how good a job we do in that presentation. Such sharing of our faith is necessary for others to come to trust in Christ … but it is not enough in itself.

 

Those you speak to – their primary problem is not informational. It is moral. It is at the heart level of what they most desire. Even with a perfect gospel presentation on your part, left to themselves, those you speak to will still willfully reject God as he is.

 

This truth reminds us as Christians that we are not sufficient in ourselves to bring others to faith. And that is true whether we are talking about our acquaintances, our friends, our family, or even our children. As Christians, we are not sufficient in ourselves to bring others to faith.

 

But for Christians this truth has implications beyond evangelism as well. It challenges us in how we think about ourselves.

 

It is worth noting that no matter how Reformed or grace-centered a Christian’s abstract theology is … there is still always a tendency to take credit for your own salvation. To feel … on some unspoken level … and assume that the reason you believed when others did not is because there’s something that’s just a little bit better in you than in everyone else who doesn’t believe.

 

I mean, if you’re a faithful Christian, and especially if you’re a good Presbyterian, then you would never say you believe that, you would never put that answer on a theology exam or promote that kind of view point.

 

But when you look at unbelievers, as they proclaim their unbelief … then doesn’t some small part of you feel a bit of that smug self-satisfaction that leads you to think thoughts like: “Boy, I’m glad I’m not that blind.” Or “Man, I’m glad I’m not that self-centered.” Or “I’d never be dumb enough to think that.” Or “I sure am glad I’m not delusional enough to believe that nonsense.”

 

Deep down … even if you give Jesus most of the credit for your faith … you take a bit for yourself too.

 

And our text tells you that when you do that, you are dead wrong.

 

Because in verse forty-four Jesus states emphatically that none come to him through their own skill, or virtue, or intelligence, or spiritual insights – they only come to him because the Father draws them.

 

Our text this morning says to you that when you see the unbeliever, and you see them reveling in their unbelief – when you see them embracing what is harmful or foolish or self-contradictory, and you see them doing it all as a result of their willful rejection of God as he is, then your thought at that moment should be: “Left to myself, I would be right there with them. Left to myself, I would do the same thing.”

 

Do you believe that?

 

Our text, in both the crowd and in Jesus’s words in verse forty-four tells us that you should.

 

Left to ourselves, we, as sinful human beings will willfully reject God as he is.

 

That is the first thing we see in our text.

 

But that leads us to a second question: If left to themselves sinful human beings will willfully reject God as he is, then how do any believe? How do any come to faith?

 

And Jesus answers that question in our text. After pointing out in verse thirty-five that the crowd already had all the information they needed, but still did not believe, Jesus explains how anyone does come to faith.

 

He says in verse thirty-seven: “All that the Father gives to me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”

 

And after the crowd responds with more unbelief, he explains it further. In verses forty-four and forty-five Jesus says: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.”

 

Jesus is telling us that the only way anyone is able to come to trust in Christ is because the Father works in their heart first – because God the Father teaches them at a heart level, so that they believe the witness presented to them.

 

The Westminster Standards – the doctrinal standards of our denomination – call this work, that is initiated by God the Father and carried out by the Holy Spirit, “effectual calling.” And the Westminster Shorter Catechism helpfully summarizes it like this – it says: “Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.”

 

Now – there’s a lot packed into that statement, but it gives us four things that God must initiate in us before we can believe.

 

First, it is God who makes us to truly see our sinful and rebellious hearts, as we refuse to really see and acknowledge them on our own. Second, it is God, working in our heart by his Spirit, who enables us to really see who Christ is and what he has to offer us. Third, it is only God, working by his Spirit, who can renew our wills, so that we desire Christ more than we desire our own sin. And fourth, even as we know all this, it is only God, working in our hearts by his Spirit, who can persuade and enable us to take that important step of embracing Jesus Christ his Son by faith, as he is offered in the gospel.

 

Each of those four works of God are necessary in our hearts if we are to trust in Christ and receive the eternal life that he offers.

 

And those four things are all packed into what Jesus refers to in verse forty-four and forty-five, when he speaks of the Father teaching people and drawing them to Jesus.

 

This is the initiating work that God does in all who believe and trust in Christ.

 

And there are at least two shocking things about that.

 

The first shocking implication is that every human being really does need this work to be done in their hearts. Even the first-century Jew in Palestine watching Jesus perform miracles, because of her sin, is unable to believe in and embrace Jesus, unless God the Father through the Holy Spirit does this work in her heart.

 

The second shocking thing here, is that God is so gracious and merciful, that even when we rejected him just because we wanted to, even then, he worked in the hearts of his people to restore their spiritual sanity, so that they might return to him – so that they might embrace the loving work that Christ was doing for them.

 

Of course, even as we acknowledge that, we should take just a minute to speak to the objection many in our culture have to the other side of this equation, which is: What about those in whom faith is not initiated?

 

That is not our main focus this morning, but I will simply say this. What we are told in this passage is that it is those who believe who have an outside will imposed on their hearts, not those who persist in unbelief. It is the believer whose nature God acts on and restrains in some sense, not the unbeliever. There is no category of person who truly wants God, but is unable to exercise true faith – who wants to choose God but is not aided in it. Those who persist in unbelief are those whom God allows to have the very freedom that they demand from him. There is no injustice in this. He has given them what they want.

 

Or as C. S. Lewis puts it: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it.” [Lewis, 75]

 

Those who persist in unbelief choose it. That is true. That is in this text. But that is still not the major take-away for us this morning.

 

The major take-away for us this morning is that in light of our deep-seated sin, it is the unfathomable grace of God that is the source of our hope. In other words, our hope is not in ourselves, but in God.

 

In fact, it is because our coming to Christ is dependent on the initiating work of God, that we can have hope.

 

Because our embracing Christ is dependent not on us, but on God and his loving work of initiating faith in our lives, we can have true hope.

 

And that has implications for a range of people.

 

Let me mention just three.

 

First, this has implications for non-Christians who are interested in and feel drawn to Christ, but have not yet embraced him.

 

Tim Keller, in his book Center Church, mentions a conversation he had with a missionary who worked among prostitutes in Korea years ago. Keller writes: The missionary “found that [these prostitutes,] in that culture simply could not accept the idea of God extending grace to them. Their self-loathing was too great. No matter how much the missionary showed them narratives of Jesus’ forgiveness or passages about God’s love and grace, he got nowhere. Finally, the missionary, who was a Presbyterian, came up with a radical idea. He decided to talk to these non-Christian Asian prostitutes about the doctrine of predestination.”

 

Keller goes on: “In our Western, democratic, egalitarian culture, the idea of God’s sovereignty and his control of all things is [a doctrine that people find implausible or overtly offensive].”

 

“This missionary, however, realized that this was not necessarily true in mid-twentieth-century Korea. So, he told the prostitutes about a God who is a king. Kings, he said, have a sovereign right to act as they saw fit. They rule – that’s just what kings do. And this great divine King chooses to select people out of the human race to serve him, simply because it is his sovereign will to do so. Therefore, his people are saved because of his royal will, not because of the quality of their lives or anything they have done.”

 

“This made sense to the women. They had no problem with [the] idea of authority figures acting in this way – it seemed natural and right to them. But this also meant that when people were saved, it was not because of pedigree or virtue or effort, but because of the will of God […]. Their acceptance of this belief opened up the possibility of understanding and accepting the belief in salvation by grace. They asked my missionary friend a question that a non-Christian in the West would never ask: ‘How can I know if I am chosen?’ He answered that if as they heard the gospel they wanted to accept and believe it, this was a sign that the Holy Spirit was working on their hearts and that God was seeking them.” And after hearing that, some of them finally responded to the gospel. [Keller, 125-126]

 

If you fall into that category – if you are drawn to Christ but hesitating, then this truth is a call to you. God is pursuing you, desiring to give you eternal life. Why on earth wouldn’t you respond to him by embracing Christ?

 

And if you are a Christian who is reaching out to someone like this, let it be an encouragement to you as well. Of course, it’s true that just outward signs are no guarantee of the depth of their true interest, or their final outcome. But signs that they feel drawn to Christ are an encouragement that indeed the Lord may be at work in their lives.

 

That is the interested non-Christian.

 

What about the uninterested non-Christian?

 

If you are a Christian who is reaching out to an uninterested non-Christian, the hope this text gives is that since God is the initiator of faith, there is no non-Christian in this life who is beyond hope of salvation.

 

God the Father can teach and draw out the heart of even the most stubborn resister. There are stories of him doing just that in the Bible and throughout Church history.

 

And so, do not give up hope. Love that non-Christian well, and so preach by your deeds. Be ready to give an answer for the hope you have, and so preach by your words. Look for opportunities to point them to Christ.

 

And then pray. Pray earnestly. Pray persistently. Pray because our God is the one who in the end can bring any rebel into faithful submission to him. Pray.

 

And if you are an uninterested non-Christian, then again, my charge to you is to dig into why you are so uninterested. And if even your internal resistance to God bothers you a bit, it may be the beginnings of the work of God in your heart. Don’t be complacent in your unbelief. Seek the truth with integrity. And if you really do, then by his grace you will find the One who is the truth.

 

Those are implications regarding various non-Christians and those reaching out to them.

 

But what are the implications of all this for Christians as they think of themselves? I’ll briefly mention four things.

 

First, as we said earlier, it should lead to humility as we think of ourselves, and empathy as we interact with unbelievers. Even as we see the foolishness of unbelief, we should humbly recognize that we would think the same way if left to ourselves. This truth of the gospel, if we really believed it, would make us much more humble as Christians.

 

Second, it should lead to worship. The proper response is thanks and praise to a God who did not leave us to ourselves. We should worship and love him for his gracious decision to interfere with what we wanted – to confront us in our hearts, to convince us of our sin and misery, to enlighten our minds in the knowledge of Christ, to renew our wills, and to persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ. Knowing that God has done all this for us, even before we repented and embraced him, should lead us to worship.

 

Third, it should lead us to service. Knowing the lengths God has gone through to make us his own should lead us to commit ourselves to live for him all the more, in everything we do.

 

Fourth and finally, it should lead to hope. Because our coming to Christ was dependent on the initiating work of God, we can have hope.

 

We’re all self-delusional in many ways. But at least to some extent, you know your heart. And if you do, then you have all sorts of reasons to know that you do not deserve God’s grace, and that left to yourself you wouldn’t continue in God’s grace. On your own, there is little reason to hope that you will remain a follower of Christ.

 

But the truth that even our initial coming to Christ was dependent on the initiating work of God reminds God’s people that God does not leave us to ourselves. And if he did not leave us to ourselves when we were in open rebellion against him, how much more will he not now, as we struggle follow him in faith.

 

The fact that God took the first step towards us is a reminder of the astounding grace of the gospel that comes up again and again in this passage. In verse thirty-seven Jesus says that whoever comes to him he “will never cast out” – and the phrase there is even stronger than it sounds to us: the phrase is meant to be a strongly affirmative one that is stated by negating its opposite. In other words, Jesus is really saying “whoever comes to me I will certainly keep in.” He is promising to hold to himself all who truly come to him. [Carson, 290] And to make that point more directly, Jesus says in verse thirty-nine that all who look on him and believe will have eternal life, and he will raise them on the last day. And he says it again in verse forty-four, and again in verse forty-seven.

 

Out of sheer grace, all who look to Christ in faith will be saved. And even that faith is itself initiated by God the Father.

 

Again, and again Jesus points to God’s unmerited grace towards his people, and to the fact that he is not a God who leaves his people to themselves.

 

And so, when you see your weakness, and when you see your failings, and when you worry about your strength, Jesus here reminds you that it is the Father that brings you to Jesus, and not you yourself. It is Christ who will ultimately keep you in, and not you yourself. It is God who grants you eternal life, and not you yourself. It is Jesus who will raise you on the last day, and not you yourself.

 

The truths in this text should cause you to despair of yourself. But it should also cause you to find hope and confidence, not in yourself, but in the work of God in your life, and his love for you despite your failings.

 

The work Christ has done to bring us to himself, even while we were rejecting him, should lead us to humility, to worship, to service, and to confident hope.

 

All three of those are summed up in the words of Josiah Conder, who wrote:

 

‘Tis not that I did choose thee,
for, Lord, that could not be;
this heart would still refuse thee,
hadst thou not chosen me.
Thou from the sin that stained me
hast cleansed and set me free;
of old thou hast ordained me,
that I should live to thee.

 

‘Twas sov’reign mercy called me
and taught my op’ning mind;
the world had else enthralled me,
to heav’nly glories blind.
My heart owns none before thee,
for thy rich grace I thirst;
this knowing, if I love thee,
thou must have loved me first.

 

[Trinity Hymnal #471]

 

Amen.

 

This sermon draws on material from:

Adams, Douglas. Life the Universe and Everything in The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide: Complete & Unabridged. New York, NY: Random House, 1982 (1997 Edition).

Carson, D.A. The Gospel According to John. PNTC. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991.

Keller, Timothy. Center Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012.

Lewis, C. S. The Great Divorce. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1946 (2001 Edition).

Nagel, Thomas. The Last Word. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Nagel, Thomas. Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2012.