Predestination and Linus' Blanket
August 13, 2017
If you know anything about the cartoon character Charlie Brown from Charles M. Schulz’s comic strip Peanuts, then you will probably know about his best friend, Linus van Pelt. Linus is just too cool. He is the wise philosopher among his friends. He is the one who gave the Christmas speech on stage and recited the narrative of Christ’s birth in Luke. He is almost always wearing a red t-shirt with black stripes on it.
But what Linus is perhaps most famous for is the fact that he is usually sucking his thumb and holding a blue blanket. It is quite literally his security blanket. Everyone makes fun of Linus for it. But he cannot live without it.
As we wait for the return of Christ, we can sometimes lose an assurance of God’s salvation and love for us. But our Lord has given us the spiritual security blanket of his holy word to help us endure and grow and look forward to the kingdom of God with faith and hope and love. And one essential truth given to us is the doctrine of predestination or election.
One of the most difficult things to talk about is predestination or election. Many people find it difficult to have conversations about this doctrine. Many people think of this theology as being cold, harsh and dark - even when they believe in it. And many people simply don’t like it and reject it altogether.
This morning, I want to rescue this doctrine from this bad rap. I’m guessing that many of you are already familiar with this doctrine. So my hope for today is actually not that you would better understand it. My hope for today is actually that you would better use it and apply it in your life. Because I believe that the doctrine of election and predestination get a bad rap because it’s widely misused. But before we accomplish this together, let us review what predestination or election is all about.
Predestination begins and ends with God. God, from all eternity, freely and unchangeably ordained whatever comes to pass. And he predestined everything by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will. This means that no one affects his plans and that no one tells him what he ought to do. This means that he makes no mistakes and that his ways are higher than our ways. And this means that he is God and he is sovereign.
But God ordered all things in such a way that he is not the author of sin. He also ordered all things in such a way that he does not force his creatures to act against their will.
Now, although God knows whatever may or can come to pass, he has not decreed anything because he foresaw it as future. He doesn’t know the future because he’s good at peeking or guessing at it. He knows the future because he ordained it. He is less movie goer and more movie director.
By God’s decree, some men and angels are predestined to everlasting life. Other men and angels are foreordained to everlasting death. Their numbers are certain and definite. There are no typos in the book of life.
Those people who are predestined to life are people that God has chosen. He chose them in Christ. He chose them in order to bring them to everlasting glory. He chose them out of his free grace and love alone. He didn’t chose them in order to reward them for their faith in Christ. He didn’t chose them because he saw that they would do good works. He didn’t chose them because of anything in them or of them. He chose them out of his free grace and love alone. And he does this for the praise of his glorious grace.
But God didn’t just ordain that they would be chosen. He also ordained the means or the way in which they would be saved. He ordained that they would be saved by the redeeming person and work of Jesus Christ. He ordained that they would be saved by the application of that redemption in time and space through the work of the Holy Spirit. He ordained an order to salvation for his elect. His chosen people are justified, sanctified, and glorified.
God passes over or passes by the rest of mankind who are not chosen by him. He ordains them to dishonor and wrath for their sin. These people are predestined for death. And he does this for the praise of his glorious justice.
So, all of that is a summary of what predestination is all about.
The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care. And this doctrine is actually revealed in God’s Word in order to benefit believers. It’s not really a doctrine for non-believers. Believers are to receive this doctrine so that they can be assured of their eternal election. Thus, this doctrine shall provide reason for praise, reverence, and admiration of God; and for humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all who sincerely obey the gospel.
This doctrine is a wonderful security blanket for our souls.
Brothers and sisters, the doctrine of predestination and election is not supposed to be cold, harsh or dark. The doctrine of predestination and election is supposed to give us who are believers assurance and comfort when we feel insecure and unsure about our salvation in Christ. It can be argued that the doctrine of predestination and election is actually the warmest, the kindest, and the brightest doctrine in all of Scripture!
Brothers and sisters, it is comforting to know that the only reason why you are going to heaven is because God picked you. You’re not going to heaven because you’re good at loving Jesus with a crazy love. You’re not going to heaven because you show spiritual growth or spiritual fruit or spiritual anything. You’re not going to heaven because you picked God. You’re going to heaven because God picked you. Salvation does not belong to you. It belongs to the Lord. That is election. That is predestination. And, brothers and sisters, that is comforting.
Brothers and sisters, when we think about election and predestination, let us always finish our thoughts with worship and thanksgiving to God. Let us praise God because he doesn’t change his mind about us. Let us give thanks to God for his ordained and eternal and unchangeable love for us. Let us live in reverence and fear and awe and wonder for God’s mercy and grace when we deserved nothing but God’s justice and wrath.
Brothers and sisters, let the doctrine of election and predestination melt away all your worldly discontentment. Are you not happy with something that is happening in your life? Are you depressed because something did not go your way? If so, then maybe you are doing it wrong. Do any of these worldly things matter when compared to going to heaven because of God’s election and predestination of you?
Brothers and sisters, let the doctrine of election and predestination bring you true humility. True humility starts with the doctrine of election. Several months ago, I was wrongly pulled over and ticketed for using my cell phone while driving when I was really just picking my ear for a few seconds. I was really upset and challenged my ticket in court. Miraculously, I lost the case and ended up paying hundreds of dollars for both my ticket and for court fees. And it went on my driving record. I remember sitting in my car in the parking lot after all of this really angry for what I felt was injustice. But then by God’s grace, a thought crossed my mind and humbled me to the dust. I realized that even though I was absolutely innocent in the court case, I am, at the end of the day, a sinner who could never claim even a shred of innocence before the ultimate courtroom of God. I remembered that I deserve nothing but the justice of being sent to hell. I remembered the big picture - that my sins are forgiven in Christ, and that the only reason why I am going to heaven is because God picked me. Now, granted, the words “election” or “predestination” didn’t actually cross my mind that day. But the realities of election and predestination humbled me and helped me to get through that difficult day. If you want to grow in humility, then start with the doctrine of election and predestination. Ponder it. Contemplate it. And through it all, bow down before God in reverence and fear and praise.
Brothers and sisters, let the doctrine of election and predestination bring you true consolation. This consolation is most powerfully understood with regard to babies who die and to people who are mentally disabled. This is a very special and mysterious matter. How can people be saved if they cannot be effectually called? How can infants “decide” for Christ? How can mentally handicapped people “choose” the Lord? What hope and consolation can a wife and husband possibly have after a miscarriage? What hope and consolation can a parent possibly have for a child with an IQ of less than 40?
The most mighty and most hopeful answer to these questions is the sovereignty of God and the doctrine of predestination and election. If a baby who dies in infancy is elect, then that baby would have been regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who works when, where, and how he pleases. If a mentally disabled person who cannot understand the outward call of the ministry of the Word is elect, then that person would have been regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who works when, where, and how he pleases. These are extraordinary cases. But while we cannot demand that such people must saved, we can have legitimate hope that such people can be saved. And the mighty and glorious doctrine that allows us to even think this way is the doctrine of predestination and election. For it is written in Romans 8, “Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
Brothers and sisters, consider this. If you do not believe in predestination or election, if you believe that salvation depends on human will, then your position cannot provide hope for dead babies or for mentally handicapped people. Many people think that the doctrine of predestination and election is stern and cold and forbidding. Many people are horrified by such theology. Many people are offended to hear that humans are totally depraved and totally unable to save themselves. But these people are often prideful and selfish armchair theologians who are completely tone deaf when it comes to the reality of the weak and the helpless. These people hold to doctrines that make them feel good about themselves without realizing that their doctrines shut the doors of heaven from dead babies and mental handicapped people. The doctrine of predestination and election is actually warm and merciful and full of hope. We know that those whom God elects, he saves effectually, perfectly, truly, and completely. We do not know how that happens with extraordinary cases such as dead babies or mentally disabled people. But we do have confident hope that elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word are indeed regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who works when, where, and how he pleases. We have confident hope from Scripture such as Luke 18, where Christ said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” We have confident hope from Scripture such as Acts 2, where the Apostle Peter declared, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Not all babies who die go to heaven. Not all mentally disabled people go to heaven. But we can have confident hope that some can, and that some indeed do, and only because of the sovereign grace and mercy of God.
And so there you have it. The right way to “use” the doctrine of election and predestination. Such truth is meant to bring assurance of salvation to believers. Such doctrine is meant to provide reason for praise, reverence, and admiration of God. Such facts are meant to give humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all who sincerely obey the gospel. Election and predestination are meant to bring warmth, kindness, and brightness to your assurance of your salvation. Such theology is for us the ultimate security blanket.
At the climactic end of the short film A Charlie Brown Christmas, our good friend Linus comes on stage to share what Christmas is all about. And he says, “And there were in the same country shepherds… abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: …”
Right when Linus says the words “Fear not,” he does something really interesting. And if you’re not watching carefully, you just might miss it. Linus drops his blanket. He lets go of it and lets it fall down onto the stage floor.
And Linus triumphantly raises his right index finger into the air and says, “… for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David… a Saviour, gist Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Linus then just stands there for a few seconds. Then he gets down and picks up his blanket and walks off the stage toward his best friend Charlie Brown and says to him, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” And as the jazz music starts to play, Linus puts his thumb back in his mouth.
Brothers and sisters, if God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, if God has chosen us in Jesus before the foundation of the world, if God has predestined us according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, if God us sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of salvation and resurrection life, to the praise of his glory, then fear not. Drop whatever earthly security blanket you cling to so dearly. And find peace in the warmest and kindest and brightest fact that you are going to heaven because God graciously picked you.