Remember that little flower petal picking game back in the day? Pick a daisy and, one by one, pull off each white petal until the last one is reached and the decision is set in adolescent stone; does the one who’s captured your young heart love you, or not? I lead with flowers and their petals because the TULIP acronym, well known in Reformed circles, tugs at us in much the same way as that childhood plucking game. A quick overview: T – total depravity, U – unconditional election, L – limited atonement, I – irresistible grace, P – perseverance of the saints. He loves me, He loves me not, He loves me, He loves me not, last petal of the tulip…He loves me.
Although the learned and studied theologians of today, and days past, can more thoroughly pick apart these doctrines of grace, I intend to err more along the lines of the simple daisy flower times. Pluck one: total depravity…does He love me? If I can accept what the Bible teaches, that I, along with all of mankind, am utterly depraved and dead in my sin from conception, how could God love me? Pluck two: unconditional election…why does God love me? Only due to His choosing of those who He draws near to Him, those in the category of the elect, not in any way, shape, or form of “free will” on mankind’s part is the why. Pluck three: limited atonement…will God love me? His love is limitless for those that He has already predestined, for those alone He loves. Pluck four: irresistible grace…can we choose not to love Him if He has ordained that we are in Him? The undeniable sovereignty of God will undoubtedly accomplish what He wills, which includes the gathering of each and every sheep that belong to Him. Pluck five: perseverance of the saints…will He let us go if we are His? God never makes mistakes in His choices, so to entertain the thought that a child of His could lose their salvation status is unthinkable. These bullet points really do keep begging the foundational question; does He love me, or not?
Generally, we are more zeroed in on whether we love God, or not. As important as it is to follow through with loving Him, we may tend to get caught up in how to do so when we ought to, if we’re Christians in question, consider more so if He loves us. Most readers will answer in the affirmative, so the next step would be to ask how He loves us. Once we can get past the second petal pluck, in which unconditional election is understood to be true, how He loves us comes pouring out. For His elect, Christ’s work on the cross is complete and the limit set. For those He has chosen, God’s will cannot be thwarted. For each chosen child of God, nothing we do can effectually separate us from the love of our Father, just as nothing we did drew us to Him. As difficult as it is for us to grasp, we get absolutely no credit or glory for anything. God gets it all.
To embrace these doctrines as a whole inevitably relieves us from any undue stress that allows our operations to have more clout than they actually do. How do we approach God as we try to seek Him and earn His love? We can’t, as we have nothing to offer but our depraved souls; but He can. How do we ensure we’re on the right track to His heavenly kingdom and fulfilling the purposes He has for us? We can’t, because we’ll fall and fail perpetually; but He can. How can we live out our faith, being certain of that which is unseen, so that it accomplishes us enough to stay in His good graces? We can’t, because we’re utterly dependent on the work of Jesus Christ.
How do we know if He loves us, or not? By picking a daisy and pulling off a petal at a time in hopes that we end up with Him loving us? How will we know if we’re chosen by Him, elected into His kingdom, a child bought by the blood of Christ that can call the Creator of all our Father? For some, this knowledge is without doubt; they know they are loved by God. For others, the answer is still to come, but just the fact that the question is being asked is a strong hint. For all, getting past the doctrine of election can move us into new territory and away from the constant plucking and wavering we do so naturally. God’s love is better understood with the tulip, rather than the daisy.