About a year ago, I attended a Bethel Atlanta service one Sunday morning and a visiting speaker (whose name I simply cannot recall) was delivering a sermon on prophetic words. He mentioned that spiritually open environments like Bethel often generate an overwhelming amount of prophetic words – a phenomenon I recall from my time in Redding.
And this is a good thing – as the body of Christ we are called to encourage and spur each other on, helping each other embrace the fullness of our identity and our destiny. However, it can sometimes lead to an unfavorable byproduct of an over-inflated sense of self-importance and spiritual pampering. The speaker said something to the effect of, “I think many of us suffer from too much chosenness.”
That phrase stuck with me. What does it mean to suffer from “too much chosenness”? How could somebody be too chosen by God? Is that even possible? — These were the thoughts that went through my head, although the concept immediately rang true in my spirit. I had often felt a prick in my spirit when I encountered this “chosen” attitude in certain Christians or, indeed, in my own heart.
This sense of chosenness is good description of spiritual entitlement. By standard definition, the word “entitlement” means to have “a right, title or claim to something.” Typically it’s used in reference to a person’s inheritance passed down to him by birthright, or gained through worldly influence and achievement. So, to be chosen is to be entitled to a certain right, title, claim or power – endowed by someone with the authority to grant it.
Now, let’s place this concept in light of the story of God. The Jews were a chosen people. God told Israel, “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (Deut 7:7)
So if the Jews were once chosen, what happened? Did God UNchoose them? In short – yes. But it’s not quite that simple. In Romans 11, Paul explains of the Jews that “through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles” and that he magnifies his ministry “in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.”
So if that is the case, are the Jews still considered “chosen” by God? Paul puts it like this: “As regards the gospel” – which is salvation in Christ – “they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” So the Jews are still technically chosen, called and gifted by God – whether or not they ever accept the salvation offered in Christ.
In fact, Paul even affirms that “at the present time there is a remnant” of Jews whom God has “chosen by grace.” He goes on to say “but if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” He later explains God’s strategy in doing this: “For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.”
In other words, God first had to first remove the chosenness of the Jews so that He could establish a chosenness of grace, inviting all of mankind to a new covenant – sealed by the blood of Christ and obtained through faith. In fact, John 1 says in reference to the Jews that God “came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him,” continuing in verse 12 with:
“But to all who did RECEIVE Him,
who BELIEVED in His name, (have faith; put in trust with)
He GAVE (bestowed an unearned gift)
the RIGHT (the power of choice)
to BECOME (come into existence)
CHILDREN of God, (dependent progeny)
who were BORN (not created or achieved)
not of BLOOD, (physical birthright)
nor of the WILL OF THE FLESH, (personal works)
nor of the WILL OF MEN, (worldly power/influence)
but OF GOD.”
Spiritual entitlement is the arch-enemy grace, and a great stumbling block to our generation. The antidote? Renounce the idea that you are elected or entitled to God’s salvation by birthright or works – and recognize the chosenness of God’s unmerited grace.