Make your Calling and Election Sure

by Mike Ratliff

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:22-25 ESV)

The Puritans had a term they used in their theological writings and discussions describing professing believers who fell away or were in some way not consistent in their walk. They called them “temporary believers.” This may be a little offensive to many these days, but there are untold numbers of Pastors, Deacons, Elders, Evangelists, or whatever in our churches in our time who would not even qualify for membership in a 17th Century Puritan Church. As I have stated many times, I grew up in Oklahoma as a Southern Baptist. I have seen literally hundreds (if not more) of “invitations.” In a large percentage of these invitations, people walked an aisle, prayed a sinner’s prayer, was Baptised, and made a full member of the church. All of this taking place in a just a period of days. I have also observed a staggeringly high percentage of those professing believers last only a short period of time before disappearing from church never to be seen again.

Is this problem a problem with the nature of Christianity? I contend that there is nothing wrong with Christiantiy. There is a huge problem with the way it is practiced in the USA in the 21st Century by large numbers of churches. The scenario that I described in the first paragraph is very common in our churches and has been for as long as I can remember. If we look at the writings and listen to the sermons of Christian theologians throughout the 20th Century we learn that those we know who were not contaminated with Christian Liberalism were constantly crying out against its invasion into our churches and denominations. The “Main Stream” denominations grew more and more liberal. This trend is culminating in our time with some of these denominations being more pagan than Christian. This liberalization of church doctrines that began in the 19th Century in this country created a new form of Christianity called Evangelical. These churches strived to fend off the creeping pollution of liberalism, but ended up morphing into a what we see today with man-focused worship, light-preaching, and pragmatism. These churches decry doctrine in favor of being culturally relevant. They say they are missional. They preach a gospel that makes it as easy as possible for people to be saved. They have removed the barriers of guilt, repentance, God’s wrath against sin, and the coming judgment against all sin. Instead they preach a gospel that eases people into “decisions” to make their life better with Jesus. We have vast numbers of Christians who have never heard the words “regeneration,” “repentance,” “wrath,” “judgment,” or possibly even “sin.” What does the Bible say about our faith? Are we to simply make “decisions” and that makes us Christians? Is there more to it than that?

Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:1-4 ESV)

The Apostle Peter, without a doubt the leader of the 12 Apostles who followed Jesus Christ during His ministry, identifies himself here as a servant and apostle of our Lord. The word servant here is the Greek word “doulos” which means a permanent slave. It is translated as “bondservant” in the AV and the NKJV. This describes a slave who has endeared him or her self to their master for life. It is a mark of humility for Peter to use this term about himself. We see in Paul’s epistles that he used it to describe his relationship with Christ as well. He then tells to whom this epistle, that we call 2 Peter, is addressed. It is written to all who have obtained a faith of equal standing with the apostles by the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Who is this? I am being facicious. Of course, we know this is written to all genuine believers. What do all genuine believers have in common? They have obtained a faith by the righteousness of Jesus Christ. How did they do that?

In v3 in the passage above, we see that Christ’s divine power has granted all believers all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called them to his own glory and excellence… The answer to my last question is found in this verse. God called them. The word in this passage is the same word found in Romans 8:29-30.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30 ESV)

That word simply means to call or invite. The following is from one of John MacArthur’s notes on this passage. “However, in the New Testament it always means the same thing. It is the effectual call to salvation. This saving call is based on the sinner’s understanding of Christ’s revealed majesty and moral excellence evidencing that He is Lord and Saviour. This implies that there must be a clear presentation of Christ’s person and work as the God-Man in evangelism, which attracts men to salvation. The Cross and resurrection most clearly reveal His “glory and virtue.” In the ESV translation that I used above the word “virtue” is translated as “excellence.” In any case, I believe this verse is key to our understanding how genuine salvation takes place. It is like a marker that is missing in the majority of the “decisions for Christ” that mega-churches are always using to show they are on the “right track.”

Those whom God effectually calls are changed. They are new creations. They are genuine believers because they are Born Again through regeneration. They did not make a simple decision and then are rewarded with eternal life because they prayed a sinner’s prayer. Instead we have the correct picture of God saving His people by calling them effectually which always results in their belief and repentance because they see clearly their sin contrasted with Christ’s Righteousness, His work on the Cross to save them and His resurrection which shows His supernatural power. This knowledge of Christ’s Righteousness is part of the gift of faith that is part of the effectual call. No matter what the order is of these “events” we believe in, we must agree that salvation is of God, not Man.

What is changed in these new creations? They are given very great promises and are made partakers of the divine nature. What does that mean? The promises are of abundant and eternal life and all of the wonderful things that go along with them. What does that mean that believers are partakers of the divine nature? This is just another way of saying they are born again. They are new creations. They are spiritually alive whereas before, they were spiritually dead. They have the Holy Spirit living in them. The last word on Romans 8:30 is “glorified.” This is the promise of a glorified body like Christ’s in eternity.

Notice also that the Born Again believer has escaped from the corruption that is in the world through sinful desires. Does this mean that all genuine believers will be free from these sinful desires? Not immediately, but over time God will use our struggle with these sinful desires to teach us humility and conform us unto the image of His Son via sanctification. It will take the rest of our lives.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. (2 Peter 1:5-10 ESV)

Verses 5-10 in 2 Peter 1 give us Peter’s concept of how genuine Christians are to manage their spiritual walk. Our faith is given to us by God or, if you will, our faith is made alive by God at our salvation as a gift which enables us to be saved. Either way that we conceive of this, it is our responsibility to put ourselves into position to grow in Christ or grow in grace. Why? This is in obedience to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) How does Peter tell us to do this? First, we are to supplement or add to our faith. That’s not something we hear everyday is it? What does it mean? The Greek word translated “supplement” or “add” here means to give lavishly and generously and never sparingly. This will make a lot of sense as we go through what we are to “add” to our faith. Remember, God has given us our faith and His Grace which is all we need to live lives of godliness. We are to add to what God has given to us by diligent devotion to our personal holiness.

The first thing Peter tells us to add to our faith is “virtue.” The Greek word translated as “Virtue” means moral excellence. It means to live a morally excellent life demonstrated before the world by living it out. It never means to live a cloistered pious life behind monastery walls, hidden from the world. Peter’s usage of this word here is describing believers adding to their faith, moral energy that performs excellent deeds. Do we, then, simply look around us for good deeds to do to show everyone how virtuous we are? Of course not! We are to turn our hearts to God, follow His lead and never hesitate to help others in ways that we would never do if we were self-focused. I believe that when we listen to God then obey Him we will find ourselves doing these things in total surprise to our own reason.

Peter then commands us to add “knowledge” to our “virtue.” This is speaking of knowledge of God, His Words and His ways. This is truth. We learn these things from the Word of God. We are to add to our faith, virtue then supplement those with Bible knowledge. What will we be like if do this? I believe being virtuous will be a lot easier for us if we have a clear and complete knowledge of God’s Word. We will know God’s ways. We will know what are not God’s ways. We will be able to discern what tries to pass for Christianity which really isn’t. How? We will know the truth from God’s Word. No lies from the enemy, nor his deceptions can find a home in our hearts if we are diligently testing the spirits against the truth from God’s Word.

Peter then tells us to add self-control to our knowledge. Peter is telling Christians that we must not be controlled by our fleshly desires. We must “hold ourselves in.” This speaks of athletes not wasting their strength and abilities on distractions that can only dilute. For the Christian, this means that they devote themselves more and more to personal holiness. They deny their flesh. They put to death their sinful desires. Instead they dedicate themselves to fulfillment from God and God alone by disdaining any focus that can become idolatrous.

After self-control, the Christian is to add steadfastness or perseverance. This describes patience in doing what is right, never giving in to what the flesh wants or to a temptation to give in by forcing their will over others. The picture from the Greek is describing one who will die rather than give in because of their vibrant hope. Hope is in the will and is inseparable from our faith. As we learn to add these virtues to our faith our hope will deepen and become more and more vibrant. This will enable the believer to withstand temptations that would have consumed them before.

To self-control we are to add godliness. This word means to live reverently, loyally, and obediently toward God. The ability to be godly is elemental within our faith as God’s Grace flows in and through us. In Peter’s progression of virtue, we have our faith from God to which we add virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, and then godliness. It is interesting that godliness, even though we have all we need to attain it in our salvation, we do not exhibit it in our character until we have learned to be the virtuous Christian Peter is describing. Our godliness will be manifest as we obtain moral excellence, knowledge of God, self-control and patience.

Next we are to add brotherly affection or brotherly kindness to our godliness. This is mutual sacrifice for one another. This means that genuine Christians should never treat other Christians shabbily. If there are needs then we should try to meet them. If encouragement is needed then we give it. If godly advice is needed then we do not hold it back.

The last thing Peter tells us that we must add is love. This is AGAPE. It is as if we will be totally selfless in our love to everyone as it flows from our brotherly affection which flows from our godliness which flows from our patience which flows from our self-control which flows from knowledge of God which flows from our moral excellence which flows from our faith which is a gift from God.

Peter then says, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Is this needed in the USA version of Christianity? It sure is needed in my heart. If we become this virtuous then the promise is that we will be effective in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Did you catch that? Why would this be true?

Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established. (Proverbs 16:3 ESV)

The virtuous Christian Peter is describing in this passage is committed to God in everything he or she does. All is under Christ’s Lordship. They are godly in character and effective in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. That means that whatever their role is in the Kingdom of God, they are effective there. The opposite is true if we are lazy Christians who are simply awaiting Heaven, watching TV as our major pastime, seldom opening our Bibles, selfishly hoarding our resources and time for ourselves then we will be ineffective or unfruitful in the Kingdom. “For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” I do not want my Saviour to return and find me in that worthless condition. “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”

I believe that Peter is telling us that genuine Christians will be drawn to become virtuous as he described here. They also diligently examine themselves to make their calling and election sure. However, false professors will do none of these things via the Spirit. They may very well do good works and look very good on the outside, but Jesus Himself said that not everyone who calls Him Lord, Lord are truly His. Only those who diligently grow in grace by practicing what Peter gave us here reveal themselves to be genuine. Many of us did not pursue this until many years after salvation. I am in this group. All I can say is God is patient and gracious. He had to take me through much to get me to surrender to His will in my walk. He did a mighty work there so that I could start this godly walk by His grace.

If this discussion has left you doubting your salvation then I suggest going to God in prayer, seek His face, ask Him to show you the truth. I believe that conviction of sin is one of the best indications of genuineness. After all, non-believers will not be convicted the same way. If you are convicted that you need to start doing what Peter tells us to here then I suggest that you begin with spending more and more time with Him in prayer and devotion. I have no doubt that He will do a wonderful work on your heart as you deny what your flesh wants, fasting from the world as you feast on Him.

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26 thoughts on “Make your Calling and Election Sure

  1. Guilt is a gift, isn’t it? Conviction leads to repentance which leads to the fruitful life of a purified soul…as you clearly expounded.
    Between you and Rick…the Lord seems to be warning His bride to get herself ready. The day of His return is surely drawing near…

  2. Hi Mike Amen!
    I look at churches now a days and crusades like Billy Graham and wonder how many people are walking around thinking they are believers and are actually not. I remember watching Billy Grahams Crusades and thinking of the thousands that went forward, how many of them will walk for Christ? And when I look at churches like Rick Warrens, I wonder the same about them. The gospel is watered down and made to be easy. Like you said it is, “They preach a gospel that makes it as easy as possible for people to be saved. They have removed the barriers of guilt, repentance, God’s wrath against sin, and the coming judgment against all sin.”

    You are so right, Salvation is of the Lord. It isn’t a preacher calling someone forward to get saved. The only calling be done is God’s calling.

    Salvation is of the Lord.”—Jonah 2:9

    “I have loved you, My people, with an everlasting love.
    With unfailing love I have drawn you to Myself.”
    Jeremiah 31:3

    I agree if there is not a change in someone after they are saved or a desire within I would have doubts of their Salvation. I know when I was saved I felt a difference, a desire to please God, a desire not to sin, It has been a slow progress but after 18 years the desire is still there and stronger.

    I have to share one of my petpeeves and that is when a Church that has the name like “Baptist Church” or “R
    Reformed Church” and decide to change the name to a Community Church because the name Baptist or Reformed are offensive to some and may scare then away. I see a lot of that lately and it is very bothersome. I am a Baptist and not ashamed of the name. Well now that I have ranted, time for me to get to work! :0
    Have a great day Mike! And thanks again for your wonderful insight.

    Cristina

  3. Jessica,

    Conviction or guilt is the sign of a healthy conscience that is in-tune with the Holy Spirit. Yes, it is a very good thing and time is short. Let’s get ready.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  4. Cristina,

    I find that amazing that Billy Graham can be the king of Evangelists, can do no wrong in people’s eyes, one day then boom, God shines his light of truth into that ministry and we see how shallow and inconsistent it is. His has buddied up with Schuller and company and it has been made public. I am still a Baptist at heart, but I go elsewhere here in the KC area because of the compromise in the SBC churches here.

    You have a great day as well Cristina.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  5. Mike,

    As I laid in bed having just awaken this morning the words of Isaiah came to mind, “For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said, ‘In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength.’” (Isaiah 30:15) These few words sum up the life of God’s elect and confirm your understanding of salvation as stated in your post today. We must repent of our sins and the ways of the world and cease from our own works to rest in the work of Christ, upon the cross and in our lives. Thus are we saved, born again and become children of God. Our sanctification is in quietness and trust. Quietness is so important in a the life of a believer because it turns attention away from self to one who deserves full attention, glory and praise, Christ our Lord. But it seems there is so much noise in the main stream of today’s Christianity as it seeks to draw attention to itself and thus away from Jesus, the true source of life and salvation. The last few words of Isaiah 30:15 are chilling but reveal the true problem of many today, “but you were not willing.” Heavenly Father, make our hearts willing and obedient. Draw our hearts to you and remove those things that clamor for our attention but can never fulfill. Thank you Father that you will equip us in every good thing to do your will, working in us that which is pleasing in your sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

    Loddie

  6. Jesus told us that MANY would come to Him and show Him things they had done for Him and the Lord will tell them He never knew them. So where does that leave those who have never done anything for Him.

    As you read, Mike, on my article titled Unimaginable Emptiness – I made the statement that more people who prayed the sinner’s prayer will be in hell than in heaven.

    The Lord is raising up men of God like you to warn believers who are not followers that the Day of the Lord approaches so “examine yourselves to see whether you be in the faith”. Let us pray that there will be blood bought souls in heaven who will give glory to Christ because they read someone’s blog and heard the voice of the Spirit, repented of their unbelief, and were saved. May your writings be used of God in that way, Mike!

  7. Rick,

    What can I say to that except may your writing be used of God in that way as well. You keep up the good work of wrestling for people’s Souls as well. God is raising up His people in these last days to know the truth, speak the truth and live out the truth – All for His glory!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  8. Great post, Mike! It’s funny though for about 3-4 months now everywhere me and my family turns a pastor is teaching on salvation…John M., Paul Washer, our pastor, people on blog sites. And it’s not just the short and sweet of it either it’s the meat ! Paul Washer pretty much cleaned the floor with us! :). Great teachings that continues to help us to evalute their stance before God after the Holy Spirit has confirmed salvation to each of us. A lot of burdens lifted too like realizing that He will do the good work in His people no matter what and it isn’t dependent upon us to be completed. I thank God for His faithfulness! Thanks, Mike!

  9. Mike, amen to your post. I have several family members who have professed Christ sometime in the past, but are not living as Christians. They “prayed the prayer” or walked the aisle, but must not have really been born again. However they were told they were saved and “once saved always saved” so they believe that all is well with them. It is sad because instead of having the joy and fellowship with them that I ought to have, there is in many cases a sort of estrangement. I do not know what to do or say in these situations, other than pray for them which I have done. Some who will speak to me I have tried to encourage toward the Lord. Others I asked to join me in a bible study, but to no avail. I too am so thankful that the church is receiving a renewal of sorts of the doctrines of grace and true salvation. May many be snatched from the fire as a result.

  10. Julie,

    Yes, it is tragic how many people are “fooled” into believing that some religious work is all it takes to be a Christian. Those truely Born Again are new creations. There will be a change in their character. Yes, continue to pray for your family members and trust God to work out His will in their lives.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  11. Thanks Mike for your message.

    “Conviction or guilt is the sign of a healthy conscience that is in-tune with the Holy Spirit. ”

    Pardon, but can you please develop more on the sentence above? What do you mean by “…concience that is in-tune with the Holy Spirit”?

  12. Joao,

    Welcome to Possessing the Treasure. Our conscience is that part of our Spirit that God designed to send guilt to our minds when we do wrong. It also makes us feel good when we do good. However, sin corrupts our conscience so that it becomes hardened. That’s what the Bible means by a Hard Heart. A hardened heart is unable to tell right from wrong, good from evil, etc. It is also unable to detect conviction from the Holy Spirit about sin or a calling to do God’s will. This causes spiritual blindness.

    A conscience that is in-tune with the Holy Spirit is one that has become softened by exposure to the Word of God, Godly preaching, prayer, and obedience to God’s will. This conscience takes on God’s values and the heart can “hear” it. The conscience in-tune with the Holy Spirit causes the person to have a heart that is not spiritually blind. The person with a softened heart can hear God and see the truth. He or she walks in God’s light – His truth.

    I hope this helps!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  13. That was the most quick reply I`ve seen.

    Brother, thanks for that clarification.

    I don`t want to be blinded, though sometimes I feel like I am blinded and stubborn myself (which I am), and I agree on all that you say, but yet I need more grace. Please pray for me that I may keep fearing His name and praying more to Lord.

    Thank you again.

  14. Joao,

    My brother, yes you have my prayers. If we are all honest, our testimonies would sound very much like yours. Seek the Lord, keep your eyes firmly fixed on Christ by abiding in Him. Just keep praying for wisdom and discernment and for God to help you walk by faith. Yes, we must fear His name and obey Him. You have my prayers brother.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  15. Thank you brother for your show of love and good advice as well as prayers.

    I will keep in trusting Him, by His grace. :)

    Thanks again!

    In His name,
    Joao

  16. Ken,

    Smoking is a habit based upon an addictive substance. Could God deliver a smoker from it? Yes, but He may not do so miraculously or all at once. Instead, He may be working on their heart to eradicate something else that is the root cause of their caving in to do things to feed some self-apparent need. In other words, stopping smoking may be a huge struggle for a Christian if their are underlying problems within their character that are not apparent to anyone else or even the smoker.

    The level of success of a Christian defeating addictions, getting the victory over them will be a product of the level of the Christian being Spirit-led or Spirit-filled.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  17. Brothers and Sisters:

    I profess faith in Christ,but I struggle with nicotine addiction. I am planning a fast so that when my cigarettes run out, I will stop. I have been under conviction about this for a long time. Please pray for God’s deliverance. Thank you.

    Ken

  18. Ken,

    I have prayed and will continue to pray for God to deliver you from this addiction. You are being convicted that means God is drawing you to quit and will help you do so. Please keep me informed.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  19. Dear Brother Mike:

    Day 2 of cutting my cigarette smoking in half. I am already having withdrawl. I hate this addiction and pray the Lord will deliver me from hell.

    Ken

  20. Brother Ken,

    I pray that the Lord will break the power of the beast within you that is demanding nicotine. Your hate for it is very good. I am praying that He will empower you to simply trust Him through this trial.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  21. I praise God that I stumbled on your site. Like Ken, I have struggled so many years with addiction to cigarettes. I go for weeks without smoking and then return to the sin that so easily besets me.

    Please, I beg of you, in the Name of Jesus Christ, stand in agreement with me for my deliverance. I want to live for the Lord and am so embarrassed and convicted about my smoking cigarettes.

    Please pray for Ken and me that we will receive our full deliverance.

    Thank you and God bless,
    Max

  22. Max,

    I have prayed that God would deliver you from this addiction and that through the battle that you will draw closer to Him, walking in purity and holiness before Him. His will be done!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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