John 15:7-17 (ESV)
7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants,[a] for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
“You did not choose me but I chose you” (John 15:16a). Wow! Read these words of Jesus again. “You did not choose me but I chose you” (John 15:16a). We do not choose Jesus! Jesus chooses us! These words make all the difference in the world.
At the end of my sophomore year at the University of Illinois, I received an unexpected letter in the mail. It was from the university’s English Department. The letter announced that each year the English Department chose one English major, based on their academic performance, to receive a full scholarship for their junior year—tuition, books, room, and board! This year, the English Department had chosen me! I had not applied for the scholarship. I had not filled out any paperwork or written any application essays. I did not even know that the scholarship existed. In no way, did I choose to win that scholarship. The scholarship committee had chosen me! It was a gift of grace that came unexpectedly and with no strings attached.
So it is in our relationship with Christ. We do not choose to be in a relationship with Jesus. Jesus chooses us! Salvation is not a personal decision we make to follow Jesus. Salvation is not an emotional response to a spiritually moving worship service or a powerful sermon. Salvation is not agreeing to a certain set of theological principles. Salvation is a gift, given to us freely by God through Christ’s death and resurrection. Salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives through Word and Sacrament, creating in us the gift of faith. Salvation is God’s doing, not our own.
“You did not choose me but I chose you” (John 15:16a). Wow!
God of Grace, free me from the illusion of thinking that my salvation rests on my decision to follow you. Free me from trusting in myself and my own actions so that I might trust only in Christ, the One who has chosen me. Amen.
Written by Pastor Greg Busboom—Lead Pastor firstname.lastname@example.org