God’s work of salvation in a person’s heart is a profound mystery. Does it ultimately go down to man’s decision or God’s that causes a person to believe and cross over from death to life? In Ezekiel 18, we see that the burden of responsibility for a man’s fate rests on his decision to repent: “when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life” (Ezekiel 18:27). Throughout Scripture, God pleads with mankind to repent and believe the Gospel, and holds us to account according to our decision. The Son of God, himself, even weeps over our unbelief: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37). Our unwillingness to believe separates us from God, yet at the same time, we see another reason for unbelief. Jesus explains to the Israelites that, “you do not believe because you are not among my sheep” (John 10:26). Note that he does not say the reverse – “you are not my sheep because you do not believe.” Obviously, God’s election is somehow mysteriously involved in our choice to believe the Gospel; and while most Christians agree both God and man play important roles in salvation, how they play out, and who has the final say varies considerably across traditions.
Dom Cobb explains that “an idea is like a virus. Resilient. Highly contagious. And even the smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you.” So opens Christopher Nolan’s 2010 tour de force Inception. Those who know me well know that Inception is and remains my favorite film of all time. The intensity, the pacing, the score, the cinematography — I could wax eloquent for quite a while on all the elements of this cinematic masterpiece, but I won’t do that here. The fact of the matter is, I, too, have been incepted. An idea, a truth far more resilient than I’ve ever known or ever expected has come to consume me. My thoughts about life and reality, truth and grace, the present and the future have all been upended by this inescapable notion. And though I might try and avoid it, its pursuit of me is ineludible. Yes, I’ve been incepted by the gospel of ordinary grace.