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Edward F. Markquart

Books of the Bible - Romans

Romans 8:28-30

Predestination. The Lord’s God given destiny for your life and mine.

Today continues a series of summer sermons on Romans.

The sermon for today continues the sermon from last week. The sermon for today does not work unless you comprehend the ending of last week’s sermon. God is so big and powerful and beyond human comprehension. God can do anything that God wants to do and God does not need to ask for your permission, your understanding or your comprehension. If you were here last week, I took  a piece of clay, of play dough, such as is in my hand.  I gave the illustration about the potter and the clay from the book of Romans. I said that there was no way that the clay could comprehend the mind of the potter. Similarly, there is no way that we human beings can comprehend the mind of God. There is no way that we can comprehend the mystery, the majesty, and the size of God. Just as the potter can do anything that it wants with the clay, God can use your life and my life in any way that God chooses to. God is all powerful;  God can do what God wants to do. God does not have to ask for your blessing, your comprehension, your agreement. God can do anything that God wants to do. This is part of the doctrine of the sovereignty of God.

God is the potter and God can make you any color of skin that God wants to make you. God can make you black or red or yellow or white or any color that God wants and God does not have to ask you permission to make you that color. God can put you in any century that God wants to put you: the first century, the tenth, the fifteenth, the twentieth century. And God does not need to ask you for your permission to do this. Likewise, God can place you in any nation here on this earth. God does not ask for your blessing, for your permission, for your agreement. God does not ask for anything. God can give you any intelligence quotient that God wants to. God can give you an IQ of 150 or 100 or 50, and God does not need to ask for your blessing, your approval, your agreement. God can have some of you live 120 years, some 80 years, some 60 years, some 40 years, some 10 years. God can do with you life what God wants to do. God is sovereign, all powerful and can do anything that God wants to do.

So I ask you a question: do you believe that God is all powerful, that God is sovereign? That God can do anything with your life and does not have to ask for your permission, your agreement, your blessing?  Do you believe that about God? The sovereignty of God is at the heart of the Bible. God is all powerful, all knowing, and can do anything that God wants to do.

So, if God wants to chose Jacob and not Esau, God can do that. Esau was born first and according to tradition, Esau should have been chosen first, but God chose Jacob, the younger, Jacob the second. God can do that if God wants. God can use Moses to get the Ten Commandments off the mountain and God can harden Pharaoh’s heart, if that is what God chooses to do.

God is both omnipotent and omniscient. That is, God is all powerful and God is all knowing. Before we proceed with the rest of the sermon, there needs to be agreement about the sovereignty, that God is all powerful and that God is all knowing. Then, the rest of the sermon is more intelligible to you.

Today, we focus on a doctrine that I hinted at last week, the doctrine of predestination, that God is all knowing, that God knew our name was written into the book of life even before the world began. We find the doctrine of predestination written throughout the whole Bible. For example, last week, from Romans 9, we heard that before the Jacob and Esau were born, God knew that Esau would serve Jacob, that the older would serve the younger. God knew this before they were born. We find the same thoughts about predestination in Romans 8:29, “For God predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son.” In Ephesians 1:4 and 11:  “God chose us from the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless. God predestined us to be his children through Jesus Christ.”, “We have been predestined to live for the praise of his glory.” From II Thessalonians 2:13 “that God chose you from the beginning to be saved.” God We find that our names were written in the book of life in Revelation 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27. and Philippians 4:3.

The Bible passages that illustrate this today are: from the Old Testament, “Before the world began, I chose you to be my servant, my prophet.” God said that to Isaiah and to Ezekiel and other prophets. “Before the world began, I chose you to be my servant.” Isaiah 49. Applying that same theme today, before the world began, I chose you…and you…and you…and you…and you… to be my servant. Even before the world began, God chose you personally to be God’s servant. Then there is the passage from King David that I recite every morning as part of my morning mantra. It is Psalm 139 which says, “All the days of my life are recorded in your book even before any one of them ever began. O Lord, how deep are your thoughts for me. How many of them there are. If I could count your thoughts they would be as numerous as the sands of the sea.”

When you add up all these passages from the Bible, you come to the conclusion about the sovereignty of God, that God is all powerful and all knowing. Predestination is emphasized in the Bible.

Whereas, in the Bible, free will is not emphasized. Here in our intellectual culture of freedom, free will is accentuated, but not in Biblical times and not in the culture of that era of history. Yes, we humans have free will. We have the freedom of choice as to what to wear, what to eat, who to vote for, who to marry, where to work and live. Our lives are filled with freedom of the will. But we humans do not have freedom of will in several important respects: the color of your skin, the color of your eyes, the century in which you were born, the nation in what you were born. So also, you do not have freedom of will in regard to your salvation. The Gospel of John, and the rest of the Bible is clear, that our salvation is a pure gift, and not dependent upon human decision, human will, or human determination. That “you are saved and your names are written in the book of life” was known by God before the world began. So the Bible and Biblical times do not know of the freedom of the will in regards to our salvation which is a pure gift from God, not dependent on human will nor human decision. 

Now, to begin the sermon for today, we need to have a sermon illustration and I need to select someone from the congregation to receive this gift that I have wrapped here on the altar. Sam. Sam, would you please come forward to help me with this sermon illustration. Sam, why did I chose you to come up front here today? Why did I chose you of all the people who are here today for worship? Is it because we hang out together, we’re best buddies, we spend a lot of time together? Is that why I chose you? “No.” That’s true. O, I know why I chose you? You are the most religious person here in this room? You pray all the time and you read your Bible every day. You are the perfect father. You are the perfect husband. That is why I have chosen you to receive this present today, is it not? “You are sadly mistaken.” Why did I choose you? Because you are more intelligent? More competent? More resourceful than your wife? “Noope.” Did I chose you because you are Norwegian? Are you Norwegian? “No.” So the, why did I chose you? “I don’t know.” Good, he doesn’t know. Here I have this beautifully wrapped present just for you which I am giving you spontaneously. Here it is. But before you open it, do you know what it is? “No.” This is really valuable. Do you think that it is a thousand dollar bill? Do you think there is a thousand dollar bill in this package? “No.” Do you think there is a diamond studded watch in this gift? “No.” I want you to know that the contents of this package are worth more than a thousand dollar bill and a diamond watch. Here it is. Would you tear it open? Don’t worry about the paper. It is some kind of a red box but there are no chocolates in there. O, this is special. What it the gift? A pair of work gloves. This is wonderful. I have chosen you to be my servant and Robin McFarland in our church has had surgery this past week, and the gutters on her home are in bad repair, and she needs her house repaired. I have chosen you to do it. Aren’t you glad you came to church today. Aren’t you glad that out of all these people, I have chosen you. Let us give Sam a round of applause.

You saw the Scriptures today. Before the world began, God chose Sam to be his servant. Sam was chosen, not because he was good. Not because he was the most pious person. Not because we hung out together and were buddies. Not because he was Norwegian. No. One second before I chose him this morning, I saw Sam in my focal point. I, God, can chose anyone I want.

And then I, God, can chose to give Sam the best gift I could ever give him. To give the best to Sam would not be to give him something material such as diamonds or thousand dollar bills. I do not chose to give him something that will not bring happiness. Diamonds and thousand dollar bills will not bring happiness nor satisfaction. I have chosen to give Sam something which will give him enormous satisfaction and happiness. The understanding that I am to be a servant of other people. When you have that understanding inside of you, when you have that understanding in your heart, that you are called to be a servant to other people in need, you find satisfaction and happiness. Satisfaction and happiness do not come from the accumulation of wealth. A happy life is an accumulation of relationships given in service to others. I guarantee you that you will be a happy person if you discover what it means to give yourselves to others in love.

That is what predestination is all about: that before the world began, your name was written into the book of life. God chose you … and you… and you…and you…and you… to be his servant.

Let’s take it a step further. I do not like the word, predestination, as much as I prefer the phrase, God given destiny. Each of our lives have a God given destiny. Before the world began, God gave each one of us a God given destiny. So many things that seem to happen to us in life seem to be beyond our decisions, beyond our will, beyond the way we try to make things happen. …

Let me give you some personal examples: I was finishing the seminary, and my wife and I had carefully calculated our future, that I was going to graduate school at Boston University on the east coast, and I was going to work on my degree in counseling. We had our future figured out. What a joke. We had our future all figured out. We ended up going the opposite direction, to the west coast and Eugene, Oregon.  How did that happen? In our plans and dreams, we were going to the east coast. The west coast was not even remotely part of our thinking, and a month later, we were going to the west coast. How did that happen? What I would like to suggest to you today is that there is a hand in my life and yours that shapes and determines our God given destiny. We do all our thinking and planning and plotting for our futures, but there is something bigger than our planning and plotting and this bigger design gives purpose to our lives. …

Or let me give you another personal illustration. It is easier to give a personal illustration at this point.  Ten years ago, I received an invitation to interview for a call to be a pastor of a church near the seminary in St. Paul. I personally wanted that position, thinking that I could both teach preaching at the seminary and work as a pastor in that congregation. I really bombed the interview; that is, when the conversation with them was over, both of us knew that we were not right for each other. So I came back to Des Moines, planted my roots deeper, saw our two children married, our grandchildren born, this sanctuary built, the Russian church move into this sanctuary along with us, plus thousands and thousands of little ministries that have occurred during the past ten years. I feel as if God had a hand in my God given destiny, that God wanted me here rather than in St. Paul for the past ten years.

 Let me give you another example. Steve Underwood, a Des Moines policeman, was shot up here on Highway 99, and it was terribly upsetting for all of us. I was standing quietly and inconspicuously at the spot where he was killed, with the hundreds and thousands of flower bouquets that had suddenly appeared there. I was talking quietly with one person. He left, and another person asked if I was Pastor Markquart. I said, “Yes.”. She said, “You are in conversation with my brother who is in prison.” Yes. We quietly laughed at our strange meeting, and she has been in church with her children almost every Sunday since. Her brother, still in prison and hearing of this encounter, wrote me that our meeting was not a chance, that God’s hand was somehow mysteriously connected with our conversation. I agree.

Last Thursday at 6:30 in the early evening. My kids were skiing at Lake Alder up near Mount Rainier and I was supposed to meet them there. I got there early, went out to the dock, took off my shoes, and dangled my feet in the water while I waited for my kids. Nobody was there. It was so nice. About that time, an Asian couple came down past me and sat on the end of the dock. I sat there, dangling my feet in the water, ignoring them. Pretty soon, the Asian woman, with her accent, asked, “How old are you?” I groaned inwardly and said, “Pretty old.” She asked another question, “Are you married?” Was I puzzled. What a question. “Yes, for nearly forty years.” Then she said, “Then you know about marriage.” “Yes, I know about marriage.” She said, “My friend here has been married for twenty years and has two children, eighteen and twenty years old, and I am his girl friend. We have been having an affair for a year. He is going to the lawyer tomorrow and file for a divorce from his wife. And we would like to talk with you about our relationship.” I nodded my head and splashed my feet nervously in the water. “I said to them, ‘You came to the right place, with my white hair and all.” So we started to talk about their relationship. I was a stranger with white hair and married a long time and they knew they would never see me again, and so the conversation got very personal. My kid was late to the dock and we had this incredible conversation for a long time.

Keith and Jan Eldridge, along with their senior in high school son, were down in Mexico working with our Mexico Mission Team at an orphanage. Jan told a friend how perfect their life was except they would have wished for more children. Within two weeks, Keith read an advertisement about Russian orphan adoptions, telephoned, and within one week, two Russian children were on their door step. On the way over with a plane load of Russian orphans,  this Russian girl discovered a half brother with whom she had been separated years ago. When the plane landed, the Eldridges were destined to have three children immediately, not two which in and of itself was a shock for them. The Eldridges, age fifty, will tell you. “It was and is a God thing. We were going to prepare for retirement, buy a home down south, travel, enjoy our new found freedom with our son graduating from high school. Suddenly and miraculously, we have three new children. We know for sure it is a God thing.”

What I am suggesting to you is that there are some things which seem are part of God given destinies. Your visions, your plans, your calculations. You go about planning and plotting your lives and all of a sudden something happens and you sense that you are a small part of a larger plan, a larger destiny. God uses your lives in ways that you never comprehended. Sometimes as such moments of these, we think of the historic figures of life like Winston Churchill or Franklin Roosevelt and that God has a God given destiny for such grand historic figures as these. But I am here to tell you today that God has a God given destiny for your life and mine as well.

I like the word, God given destiny, more than the word, predestination. God given destiny does not sound so fixed as the word, predestination, does. There is a bigger purpose to your life than you think there is. God uses your life in ways that you have no idea about, in ways that are beyond your comprehension. That is what the doctrine of predestination is all about. Your life is much bigger than you understand.

But there is more. The Bible says that our names were written in the book of life before life ever began. I believe that. …Then you ask another question: whose name is written in the book of life. Such thoughts often rumble around our heads in the middle of the night or when walking: who is saved? Whose name is written in the book of life. We ask another question:  why am I a Christian and my cousin Paul does not profess to be. Paul is an incredible guy, a dentist, a consummate bird watcher, a good family man with good values. How come I ended up being a Christian and he ended up with Tai Chi or some similar values. How come my name is written in the book of life and his isn’t. … Whoops. WHOOPS!!! Who says that my cousin’s name is not written in the book of life? One thing we must be careful of: we must let God write the names in the book of life.  We don’t write anybody’s names in the book of life, nor do we know whose names are in that book nor whose names are not. Like in the book of Job, God asked: “Where were you when I created the world and set the foundations of the universe? Were you there? Were you my counselor? My advisor?” Nor do you know whose names are written and not written in the book of life.

I like that story about the potter and the clay. I can see that potter working with that clay. I like the idea that the clay can in no way comprehend the mind of the potter. I like the idea that my mind can never comprehend the mystery of my God given destiny. Nor can you comprehend your God given destiny.  For God is all knowing, all powerful, and beyond human comprehension. Amen.

CHILDREN’S SERMON. All the children come up front. I, the pastor, pick up the sanctuary Bible which is very large and hold it up for all of them to see it. I ask the children some questions such as, What is the name of this book? The Bible. Now, I would like you children to imagine a long, long time ago, before there was earth, before there was a sun or a moon, before there were stars. Would you all use your imaginations and try to imagine a time before there was time, the sun, the moon and the stars. Can you try to imagine way back then? The Bible teaches that you were known to the mind and heart of God even before the world began. That being, that God is all powerful and all knowing. Does that mean that God knew you even before you were born? The kids will stumble around and finally say yes. Another question: Did God know the color of eyes you had even before the world ever began? Yes. Another question: Did God know that you were going to heaven even before the world began? Yes. That’s good. Do you understand all this stuff that I have just been talking about? I don’t either. Thanks.

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