Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Our Father and His Effective Will

Ok, I hope this comes out sensible enough.  I've had this thought in my head for the past week or two and thought I'd pass it along, because it's a very encouraging thought.  However, the thought's only been in my head and I haven't tried to put it into words until just a few days ago.  So it might come out a little muddled, so please, just bear with me.  The thought is: God accomplishes that which He would have us to do.

If God gives us something to do, leads us in one direction, calls us to a certain place, He's not just going to send us out there as sheep with no shepherd.  He's not the kind to tell us how to do something, give us a test on it, and then sit back and watch to see if we get it right.  No, He'll be walking with us the whole way, lending a hand whenever needed, and even carrying us through (probably carrying us most of the way).

Here are some verses that I ran across in the past few weeks that I thought could be applied to the subject.  2 Timothy 1:12, "...for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day."  2 Thessalonians 3:3, "But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil."  Hebrews 6:15, "And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise."  Ephesians 6:11, "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."  Isaiah 53:4-6, "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."

 The Lord will keep what we've committed.  Isn't that an amazing thought!  The Lord is faithful unto us even when we are not faithful unto him.  He gives us the promises.  He gives us battle array; He doesn't want us to go headlong into a fight without His protection.  And He has accomplished salvation, our salvation, He's done it for us!

Think on these things.  And whatever you're dealing with at this moment, how can this thought not encourage you?  God accomplishes that which He would have us to do.  Some of us may think that we are so weak, and why would He want us as His children.  Maybe we seem to be failing in everything we do.  But if you are chosen of God, He did it for His glory.  And when we feel especially low or cast down, all we must do is look to Him and He'll be right there, helping us along, casting away our cares.

Whatever Christians do for Christ, it is not them that do it, it is Christ within them accomplishing that which He would.  And this is what every Christian prays for: that others would not see us in our fleshly selves, but that they would see Christ shining bright through us, a light in this dark world.  And if the Lord Jesus Christ is doing a work in you, dear friend, don't fight it, but surrender yourself to Him and His will.  Because He not only accomplishes that which He would have us to do, but He accomplishes what He wills as well (which, actually, they're one and the same).

*Side Note*  I didn't name this post until the last minute and when I was previewing it, part of the title kind of stuck out at me.  The Father has a will.  Now, a lot of the time when you (or at least I) think of someone as having a will (in this sense), you're going to think something along the lines of stubborn-willed.  Think about it, do you ever hear someone say, "Oh, that child has such a sweet will about her"?  No (or at least, I don't), you would hear something like, "He's a stubborn-willed child."  So here I finally get to my thought: God is stubborn.  Plain and simple.  Only, He's righteously stubborn, whereas it is a sin for that little boy to be stubborn.  What He wills, He will have, and there's no changing that.  And that right there is a glorious thought!  Because He willed to have me!  And you, dear reader, if you are His!  He was more stubborn than me in bringing me in and was righteous in His stubbornness.  My stubbornness was just sin.  But Christ paid the debt for my sin, and stubbornly would not share me with the devil.  Praise God!  And you, too, dear reader, praise Him for His goodness and His stubbornness and His righteous will!
(So, yes I know that was a little off subject.  But it was a last minute thought and I thought I'd share it with you, anyway.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Keep the Word Close to Your Heart

Sometimes this is hard to do.  If you're in the midst of trial, or having a bad day, or if you're really excited about something; these are times the devil uses to move in and snatch God's Word straight from your heart.  And sometimes, if you're really caught up in these things, you think that you don't want it back.  But if you are a true Christian, this isn't true - deep down you have a burning fire, even if it's a small flame at the moment, that yearns for the food of God's Word.

If you're going through trials, you may think you don't want the Word because God gave you these trials to endure and so you don't really feel like trusting Him right now.  In all reality though, you know that if you turn to God and His Word during these times, He will only lift you up and encourage you.  If you're really excited about something, you may feel like not dwelling on the Word because it will bring a little seriousness to the joy you're experiencing right now.  But really, is it true joy if God has nothing to do with it?

But if you are a true Christian, then you also know that with God's Holy Word in your heart comes the greatest sense of peace, joy, trust, staying power that can ever be experienced.  So, to think of the Lord or to thank Him in your excitement will only bring greater joy, even if it does bring a little seriousness.  And to read the Word and pray to your Heavenly Father during trials or bad days will only help you to trust Him more and give you strength to go on.

A few weeks ago on Sunday after I'd done my morning devotions, I prayed sincerely to God that after the morning service I would keep what was said in my heart and mind and meditate on it, and not turn to thinking of things that would entertain an earthly conversation.  Sadly, the moment we were dismissed, I was caught up in getting ready to go hiking in the mountains: pulling Dad's truck out, changing, packing a lunch...  There was no thought of the sermon or what had been said in my mind until about an hour later, ten minutes into the drive that I had remembered my prayer.  I was ashamed of myself.  How could I have slipped so easily when I had prayed so earnestly?  And that's when I thought of the topic for this post.

The devil makes his move when we are least expecting it, when we put our guard down for one moment.  The only way we can battle him is to run to the Lord as soon as we realize what has happened.  And the Lord will be there for us, and will help us through anything.  Because we are His children.  We belong to Him.  And He is a jealous God, and He wants all our thoughts to be with Him.

Since we as man are totally depraved, tainted by sin in everything we do, it is not the natural thing for us to be heavenly minded.  Our thoughts naturally tend to go in the direction of this world.  But if we are Christians, we work to exercise our minds to think on heavenly things.  And through God's grace we can obtain this.

So dear friend, today let us think on things eternal, heavenly, honoring to God.  And whatever kind of week, month, or year you're having, see if it makes a difference in your attitude, demeanor, actions, and speech.  May the God of Heaven be glorified in all that we do.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Free Will of Man vs. The Sovereignty of God

I hear people saying all the time, "God has given you a gift.  All you have to do is accept it.  God's done His part, the rest is up to you."  This is the doctrine of free will.  What I am going to try and say in this post is that this doctrine is a slap to the face of God.

The doctrine of free will much too boldly declares that God is not sovereign in all things and that He has no control over a person's salvation.  It wrongly implies instead that man is sovereign - all we have to do to be saved is to accept God's gift.  And if this be the case (that it's our choice and ours alone, which happens to point to a "works" salvation), why would Jesus have died on the cross for our sins?  And if God wouldn't have sent His son to pay our debt, salvation would be worthless.  Doesn't make much sense, now does it?

In a certain sense, we do have our own part to play, but it's certainly not us by our own little sinful selves that this is accomplished.  If we are the elect of God, He will draw us to Himself through His irresistible grace.  So, it's almost like we do nothing at all, it's all Him.  If He didn't draw us, we wouldn't accept or cry out for forgiveness of sins.

Everything works according to God's will (Romans 8:28).  He didn't choose the elect because He foresaw that they would believe.  If this were the case, God would have no control over who would be saved and who wouldn't, and thus, God's will would not be done in this case.  He chose them because He wanted to; it was His will to predestine some to eternal glory and others to eternal damnation.  If someone is predestined by God to damnation, they can not change this simply by saying that they will believe in Him.

Also, if we have free will and God has no say in the matter, we could choose not to be saved after we've already been saved.  We should be able to choose to do this, according to the doctrine of free will.  But this is not so.  The Bible says in John 10:27-29: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:  And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand."

I found some short paragraphs by a one Matthew J. Slick online about the 5 points of Calvinism, which, if you're a free will-er, you probably tend not to believe:
"Total Depravity:
      Sin has affected all parts of man. The heart, emotions, will, mind, and body are all affected by sin. We are completely sinful. We are not as sinful as we could be, but we are completely affected by sin.
      The doctrine of Total Depravity is derived from scriptures that reveal human character: Man’s heart is evil (Mark 7:21-23) and sick (Jer. 17:9). Man is a slave of sin (Rom. 6:20). He does not seek for God (Rom. 3:10-12). He cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14). He is at enmity with God (Eph. 2:15). And, is by nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3). The Calvinist asks the question, "In light of the scriptures that declare man’s true nature as being utterly lost and incapable, how is it possible for anyone to choose or desire God?" The answer is, "He cannot. Therefore God must predestine."
     Calvinism also maintains that because of our fallen nature we are born again not by our own will but God’s will (John 1:12-13); God grants that we believe (Phil. 1:29); faith is the work of God (John 6:28-29); God appoints people to believe (Acts 13:48); and God predestines (Eph. 1:1-11; Rom. 8:29; 9:9-23).   

Unconditional Election:
     God does not base His election on anything He sees in the individual. He chooses the elect according to the kind intention of His will (Eph. 1:4-8; Rom. 9:11) without any consideration of merit within the individual. Nor does God look into the future to see who would pick Him. Also, as some are elected into salvation, others are not (Rom. 9:15, 21). 

Limited Atonement:
     Jesus died only for the elect. Though Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient for all, it was not efficacious for all. Jesus only bore the sins of the elect. Support for this position is drawn from such scriptures as Matt. 26:28 where Jesus died for ‘many'; John 10:11,15 which say that Jesus died for the sheep (not the goats, per Matt. 25:32-33); John 17:9 where Jesus in prayer interceded for the ones given Him, not those of the entire world; Acts 20:28 and Eph. 5:25-27 which state that the Church was purchased by Christ, not all people; and Isaiah 53:12 which is a prophecy of Jesus’ crucifixion where he would bear the sins of many (not all).

Irresistible Grace:
     When God calls his elect into salvation, they cannot resist. God offers to all people the gospel message. This is called the external call. But to the elect, God extends an internal call and it cannot be resisted. This call is by the Holy Spirit who works in the hearts and minds of the elect to bring them to repentance and regeneration whereby they willingly and freely come to God. Some of the verses used in support of this teaching are Romans 9:16 where it says that "it is not of him who wills nor of him who runs, but of God who has mercy"; Philippians 2:12-13 where God is said to be the one working salvation in the individual; John 6:28-29 where faith is declared to be the work of God; Acts 13:48 where God appoints people to believe; and John 1:12-13 where being born again is not by man’s will, but by God’s.
Perseverance of the Saints:
     You cannot lose your salvation. Because the Father has elected, the Son has redeemed, and the Holy Spirit has applied salvation, those thus saved are eternally secure. They are eternally secure in Christ. Some of the verses for this position are John 10:27-28 where Jesus said His sheep will never perish; John 6:47 where salvation is described as everlasting life; Romans 8:1 where it is said we have passed out of judgment; 1 Corinthians 10:13 where God promises to never let us be tempted beyond what we can handle; and Phil. 1:6 where God is the one being faithful to perfect us until the day of Jesus’ return."

But how can these passages be refuted?  If you believe in the free will of man and not the sovereignty of God, how do you explain these verses?  And if you can't, why would you go one believing and preaching that man is more powerful than God?

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, 
to them who are the called according to his purpose.
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, 
that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: 
and whom he called, them he also justified: 
and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
~Romans 8:28-30