How do I make my calling and election sure?

The book of 2 Peter is addressed to Christians who are called out of the world and who understand the promise made to them to become glorified members of God’s Family (compare 2 Peter 1:1-4). Even though this letter was written to the early members of the Church of God, it also directly applies to Christians throughout the ages. Peter writes to encourage the readers to develop their conversion by producing spiritual fruits. He then makes a summary statement, “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10-11). This raises a question that all Christians need to answer for themselves, “How can I make my calling and election sure?”

It is a privilege to be called in this age. Even though the plan of God involves bringing many to salvation, there are only a few who are called now. In our booklet, “Are You Predestined to be Saved?” we highlight the fact that only a relatively few number of people are called today.

“The Bible teaches that in this day and age, God calls just very few to salvation. Those who respond to the call and become converted are referred to as the firstfruits (compare James 1:18; Revelation 14:4). Some try to defeat the Biblical concept of predestination, as explained in this booklet, by stating that God does not know ahead of time whom He will call and choose. Rather, they claim that God ‘calls’ many, based on their prior conduct in this life, and that He then decides to choose or accept those who respond to His call, while rejecting those who reject His call.

“However, those who are truly called today have been first foreknown and predestined by God (Romans 8:28). They were singled out BEFORE they did right or wrong—that is, they were NOT called because of their works (compare Romans 9:11; 2 Timothy 1:8–9). Those who are truly called are also chosen and faithful (compare Revelation 17:14). The Bible does not teach that God calls many today to salvation, but that most reject their calling and that only a few will respond and become chosen and faithful. If that were true, then those who have rejected their spiritual calling to eternal salvation would have committed the unpardonable sin—and this is decisively not correct. Today, God only calls and chooses the few (compare 1 Corinthians 1:26–29), and when He brings them to true conversion, they, for the most part, will stay loyal to Him (although it is possible, that some, who are truly called to salvation, will commit the unpardonable sin).”

This passage should help us understand how special it is to be among the called and elect today. Knowing that we have such a tremendous opportunity to understand and live by the Truth should motivate us to take advantage of the gift of the Holy Spirit with which we have been entrusted. To be in a position to “make our call and election sure” is very special. Therefore, it is vital to clearly understand what it takes to follow through with our calling and succeed in fulfilling the plan that God has in store for us individually.

The instructions that Peter writes preceding the admonition to make our call and election sure serve as a good starting point. He describes the general characteristics to develop on our Christian journey. Diligence, faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love serve as the essential building blocks of spiritual fruit (compare 2 Peter 1:5-9). The application of those efforts is also important to consider. The objects of our faith, virtue, knowledge, and so on matter! To what end should we direct our efforts to make our call and election sure?

There are three things that this Q&A will focus on directing our efforts towards which will help bring fruit to maturity. The first is about staying grounded in the Truth. The second is to maintain endurance. The third is to repent from sin by becoming and staying obedient to God’s commandments. The parable of the sower gives us valuable lessons. But first, let us understand that even though four categories of people are described in that parable, only the people of the fourth category were called for salvation. We write in our free booklet, “Are You Predestined to be Saved?”:

“In the parable with the sower, in Matthew 13:18–23, four types of people are mentioned who all hear the Word of God. But only one person accepts the Word and produces fruit (verse 23), while the other three give up and fall away. Does this mean that all of them were truly called by God to salvation? And—that God was caught by surprise when the first three fell away, although He had predestined them to be called in this day and age? Hardly! God very well knew that only the fourth person would respond and continue in His calling, as God knows the hearts and minds of people. Only the fourth person was predestined to be called and chosen in this life.”

Still, the reaction of the first three categories of people who heard God’s Word can show us how we, who are called for salvation, must not behave, while the reaction of the fourth category illustrates to us how we are to behave in response to God’s calling.

In the first example, we read about a lack of diligence to develop knowledge and understanding of the Truth. “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside” (Matthew 13:19). Applying this to us who are called to salvation, when we first hear the Word of God, it might be a challenge to believe what we hear because it is so contrary to the teachings of the world! But if we don’t completely understand something at first, it should compel us to dig in and learn more about it. If we willingly neglect to learn more about the instruction of the Bible when something doesn’t make perfect sense right away, the Truth could eventually be “snatched” away from us. To prevent that from happening, we need to be dedicated to continual learning. Responding to God’s calling involves diligence in studying and learning so that we develop knowledge and understanding of the Truth.

We must have an open mind to believe what the Bible instructs. The Bereans give us a great example to follow. “Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.   These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men” (Acts 17:10-12). In this example, the love for the Truth is clearly evident. When the Bereans received the instruction from Paul and Silas, they got busy researching to make sure they understood the Truth comprehensively. This is our job too.

Having a love for the Truth also factors into the development of our understanding. Without having a love for the Truth, we will not care enough about it to dedicate ourselves to learning. To be on guard against the evil powers of the world now and in the future, having love for the Truth is essential. We know that a time will come when deception will abound upon the earth, even more than today. The ones who do not have a love for the Truth will be deceived and fall away because the passing pleasures of sin are too compelling (compare 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). When we love the Truth, we care enough to develop our understanding of it, and also become compelled to live by it. The Truth forms the foundation for correctly developing the fruit of the Spirit.

In the second example in the parable of the sower, we see a failure that comes from a lack of endurance. “But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles” (Matthew 13:20-21). Truly, the teaching of the Bible is very exciting! For some, the excitement that initially comes at the start does not develop any further. In those circumstances, the willingness to live by God’s Word ceases and becomes unfruitful. This can also happen to those who are called. When trials come, they lack the endurance to continue to accept and live by the Truth with a joyful heart. 

When we are called by God, it is for a grand purpose – to live as glorified members of His Family. With such an eternal end result, endurance is absolutely essential. To stop in the development of Christian character after the excitement fades leaves the opportunity of a lifetime unfulfilled. “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.   For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: ‘For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.’ But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:35-39). In this passage, we see the contrast between Christian endurance and drawing back into the world. The warning is that when we don’t have endurance, we put ourselves in a precarious position, at risk of failing to live in accordance with our call. Working towards an eternal result requires that we continue our efforts until the time of fulfillment – a lifetime endeavor!

The third aspect of making our call and election sure involves applying these aspects in practical ways in our life. We must work to overcome the world and the way of sin. Returning to the parable of the sower, we can see the attribute of the final failure. “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22). In this example, the ones who receive the word do not apply the teachings of the Bible to repent. But rather, the carnal pleasures of sin prevent these people from developing the spiritual fruit required of a Christian and draws them back into the world. To some, sin has too great of an influence, causing them to neglect the requirement to live righteously. For those who are called to salvation, they must continue to live a life of repentance even after their baptism.

Repentance from sin and overcoming the world put the love of the Truth into practice. This is how we truly develop the spiritual fruit required of us. If we love the Christian Way of Life, even at the threat of rejection from the world, we choose to actively please God with the way we live. It brings God an abundance of joy to see people repent from sin and choose obedience when faced with the temptations of the world (compare Luke 15:10). Obedience is absolutely essential for Christians who desire to make their calling and election sure.

Answering the calling from God the Father who draws us to Jesus  Christ involves  continuously making tremendous changes in life (compare John 6:44-45, John 6:65, John 14:6). It takes a life-long commitment to learn the Truth and live the way of righteousness, following the example of Christ. This is not to say that Christians must live a perfect life in order to make their call and election sure. As human beings, we will slip from time to time. While we do not try to sin and make every effort not to sin, we will still stumble (compare Romans 7:15-25, 1 John 1:8). When that happens and we realize what we have done, we confess our sins, and God will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). We put our endurance to work and repent because we love the Truth. To answer our calling, we demonstrate an attitude of perseverance to live in a way that pleases God, because we love Him and His commandments. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). By continually working to understand and live by the Truth, endure in our adherence to those teachings, and overcome the sin, we will receive the promise, having an entrance supplied to us abundantly into the everlasting Kingdom of God.

The fourth category of people mentioned in the parable of the sower are the only ones who ARE called for salvation in this life, who have a good ground or a willingness to accept God’s Word; who hear and understand God’s Word; and who act upon that understanding in obeying God’s Word, thereby producing fruit. But even then, some produce more fruit than others; and their reward will be in accordance with their works.

Lead Writer: Eric Rank

Obsolete

This week, my son’s music teacher gave him a CD recording to help him learn some music that he plans to perform. He brought it home, not knowing exactly what to do with it. Even though CD technology doesn’t seem that old, we simply didn’t have a CD player readily available for him to play it. In fact, I had to do a little digging in the basement to find a device in our home that is capable of reading CDs so his recording would play. It made me think about how quickly the things that we use become obsolete.

Just as CDs have been superseded by streaming music services – and ironically vinyl records – we see other advancements pushing aside stalwart technologies. Electric cars now dominate automaker-marketing campaigns. Battery-powered bicycles prevail on the bike paths, leaving the human-powered pedal pushers in the dust. LED lightbulbs fill the shelves at hardware stores, replacing the tried and true, but inefficient, incandescent bulbs that haven’t changed much in the past 150 years. Even though these are current examples, it’s quite common to see the old replaced by the new.

Advancements have been a human endeavor from the beginning. However, new technologies only provide us with new ways of doing the same old things. Streaming audio services and Bluetooth earbuds serve the purpose of enabling us to listen to music. Yet, people have been able to listen to music since the first person on earth enjoyed another person singing to them. We are told by the industry that electric cars are supposed to make traveling easier, but traveling has been possible since man first sat on a horse. As Solomon reminds us, “That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which it may be said, ‘See, this is new’? It has already been in ancient times before us” (compare Ecclesiastes 1:9-10). Even in the ancient times during which Solomon lived, he could see that modern inventions are only an illusion of advancement. But, man in his pride believes that inventions that cause obsolescence are the measure of “progress”.

The attempt to make progress through the replacement of ancient things expands beyond technology and gadgets. Today we see how quickly the Truth of the Bible is jettisoned aside to usher in a more modern interpretation of so-called morality. To cite a simple example, more and more nominal Christian churches are placing a perverted spin on marriage, ignoring the clear Biblical doctrine that it is a sacred institution between a man and a woman. The desire to adapt the interpretation of the Bible to fit the norms of modern culture is no advancement. Rather, the practice of selectively applying Biblical instruction to be convenient for human desire only corrupts the perfect Truth of God. The Word of God needs no replacement because it will never be outdated.

We are fortunate to have access to God’s perfect instruction to guide and direct us every day of our lives, regardless of our circumstances. “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him” (Proverbs 30:5). We can, and must, apply that pure Word of God in our lives if we want to fulfill our potential. There is nothing better that will come along in the future, because the Truth is enduring, perfect, and stands the test of time (compare Isaiah 40:8, 1 Peter 1:23). Technology may try to bring us more worldly convenience with each passing day, but we can be satisfied today with the perfect Truth of the Bible, knowing that it will never be obsolete.

In Control?

Drifting in life places control over the direction we take in our lives to influences that are ungodly. To stay in control involves adopting God’s will as our own and being led by the Holy Spirit.

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Six Woes

“Woe” expresses a dire warning to the people to whom it is pronounced in the Bible. The book of Isaiah contains a series of six woes, or warnings, to a variety of people and nations. What can we learn from them? What will be the ultimate prophetic outcome?

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Special

When we are considered to be special by others, especially by those we hold in high esteem, it feels great. We feel loved and valued. Do we realize that God Himself considers us to be special to Him? What can we do to honor that privilege and develop our relationship with Him?

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True Repentance

At the heart of Christianity is the doctrine that as human beings we need forgiveness of our sins to obtain salvation, and inherit eternal life. A naïve prescription for becoming forgiven instructs people that all they need to do is to believe in Christ to be saved. While this is a necessary condition for receiving forgiveness, merely believing is not independently sufficient. We need to begin by understanding our sins and turning away from them. This is the act of true repentance.

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He Raises Up Kings

In recent weeks and months, several prominent changes in global leadership have taken place. In Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu returned to his position of power as Prime Minister of Israel, despite his indictment in a national scandal. After an exceptionally short 50-day stint as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Liz Truss resigned, giving way for Rishi Sunak to take her place. In the United States, mid-term elections shifted the balance of partisan power in Congress and several gubernatorial seats among the states. The recent changes in political power appear as a game of chess, in which different pieces take their positions according to the strategy of the players.

Understanding biblical prophecy, we know that God is working out His Will to carry out His plan. He is the one moving the chess pieces on the chessboard of geopolitical power. Even though this is Satan’s world who gives his power to whomever he wants, he can do nothing against God’s Will, and sometimes, God intervenes directly to carry out His plan. Daniel acknowledged God’s preeminence as he reflected upon the rulership of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. “And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding” (Daniel 2:21). It might seem surprising for Daniel to acknowledge God’s divine role in placing Nebuchadnezzar in power, considering that he had taken the nation of Judah captive. Yet, God had a purpose in using Nebuchadnezzar to execute His Will. Why should we think that anything would be different today?

God is the One who may bring leaders to power for a purpose that He designs according to His Will. In Daniel’s time, God used Nebuchadnezzar to bring Judah into captivity as a punishment because of their disobedience. To the human mind, it might seem cruel to raise up a devious king for the purpose of punishment, but God executes His plan perfectly to bring about the results that He designs.

As He used Nebuchadnezzar to punish Judah in the time of Daniel, God will likewise use Assyria again in the future for the purpose of punishment. “‘Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger And the staff in whose hand is My indignation. I will send him against an ungodly nation, And against the people of My wrath I will give him charge, To seize the spoil, to take the prey, And to tread them down like the mire of the streets.’” (Isaiah 10:5-6). The modern nation of Assyria, which we understand to be the nations of Germany and Austria today, will rise to power according to the Will of God as a rod of punishment against the descendants of the Israelite nations because they have strayed from Him and embraced sin. Sadly, even the extreme circumstances that the Bible prophesies will not be sufficient to wake many people up from the state of sinful stupor they are in.

Knowing that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (compare Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8), we can be confident that He continues to bring about changes in leadership according to His Will today. The recent changes in leadership around the world have taken place according to His Will. This does not mean that God necessarily caused those changes directly, but He allowed them to occur for His reasons. And His purpose is completely different from those who participate in elections to bring about their own human will. “‘They set up kings, but not by Me; They made princes, but I did not acknowledge them. From their silver and gold They made idols for themselves—That they might be cut off’” (Hosea 8:4).

It displeases God to see mankind forsake Him and make feeble attempts to improve the world through leaders they elect. The effect is the election of individuals who may even carry out the Will of God—but in ways that they do not expect. According to biblical prophecy, the elected leaders in the world today will only bring further decay, resulting in terrible circumstances throughout the world.

Some will try to make the argument that it is the duty of Christians to vote in governmental elections so that virtuous leaders can take positions of power. Yet, it is clear that even the most so-called virtuous politicians fall far short of living and promoting a godly life. Many times, those who come to power are not virtuous at all, but God may use them to carry out His desire and plan under certain circumstances. It will take the return of Jesus Christ to establish God’s government to make any meaningful correction. For this reason, we do NOT vote in governmental elections, nor do we participate in worldly politics. To do so is futile because Satan is the god of this world, and governments function according to the policies of man, not God.

Even though the current circumstances in the world seem hopeless, we look forward to the leadership of Jesus Christ! His government will bring about a complete transformation over the face of the Earth, putting an end to war and establishing peace forever (compare Isaiah 9:6-7). At that time God will continue to raise up kings. Those leaders will be the ones who have overcome the world of sin by tenaciously clinging to the ways of godly righteousness. In Revelation 1:5, John honors Jesus Christ saying, “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” If we are able to endure in our love for this Way of Life, those kings whom God will raise up will include you and me.

Be Counted Worthy

Worthiness inherently involves an evaluation, which can be frightening in certain circumstances. For Christians, being worthy in the eyes of God for salvation and other blessings requires faith and personal transformation. It is within the capacity of everyone whom God calls to succeed, turning that frightening experience of evaluation into an exciting one.

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Squirm

The only way that we can grow as Christians is by acknowledging our weaknesses so that we give place for God to work in our lives. The vulnerability in that acknowledgment is uncomfortable, but we can trust in the strength of God to give us relief.

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An Opportunity for Everyone

God’s plan is full of mercy. People who never had the chance to correctly understand the complete Truth of God’s plan will have a chance to learn and obtain salvation during a resurrection to physical life during the Great White Throne Judgment period. The firstfruits in God’s Family will have the role of sharing the Truth to guide them in their understanding.

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