Devastated and Delighted
“The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 7:6)
What would the doctrines of grace — the old Puritan term for the Calvinistic teaching of God’s sovereign grace in our salvation (TULIP) — what would those doctrines of grace sound like if every limb in that tree were coursing with the sap of Augustinian delight (that is, “Christian Hedonism”)?
Total depravity is not just badness, but blindness to God’s beauty, and deadness to the deepest joy.
Unconditional election means that the completeness of our joy in Jesus was planned for us before we ever existed, as the overflow of God’s joy in the fellowship of the Trinity.
Limited atonement is the assurance that indestructible joy in God is infallibly secured for God’s people by the blood of the new covenant.
Irresistible grace is the commitment and the power of God’s love to make sure we don’t hold on to suicidal pleasures, and to set us free by the sovereign power of superior delights.
Perseverance of the saints is the almighty work of God not to let us fall into the final bondage of inferior pleasures, but to keep us, through all affliction and suffering, for an inheritance of fullness of joy in his presence, and pleasures at his right hand forevermore.
Of those five, unconditional election delivers the harshest and the sweetest judgments to my soul. That it is unconditional destroys all self-exaltation (that’s the harsh part); and that it is election makes me his treasured possession (that’s the sweet part).
This is one of the beauties of the biblical doctrines of grace: their worst devastations prepare us for their greatest delights.
What prigs we would become at the words, “The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6), if this election were in any way dependent on us. But to protect us from pride, the Lord teaches us that we are unconditionally chosen (Deuteronomy 7:7–9). “He made a wretch his treasure,” as we so gladly sing.
Only the devastating freeness and unconditionality of electing grace — followed by all the other works of saving grace — let us take and taste such gifts for our very own without the exaltation of self.