Who’s Choice is it Anyway?

It is an understatement to say that the topic of Divine Election is a hotly debated one.  People are often very passionate and sometimes downright uncivil in their expressions of those passions.  People are cast with (what are intended as) disparaging labels, looked down upon with expressed disappointment, and dismissed as marginal when they admit to certain doctrinal beliefs.

That the Doctrine of Election is taught in Scripture is undeniable by anyone reading Scripture with honest eyes.  Getting beyond our preconceived ideas of what is taught is usually the problem and a challenge for any of us to get to the heart and truth.  Certainly, we can all find our various “proof-texts” or “spoilers” to opposing doctrinal positions.  However, a goal of theology involves avoiding outright contradictions in our formulations in our quest for the TRUTH of God.

If a seemingly opposing passage can be easily worked into a particular doctrinal position without either twisting or changing it’s basic meaning, it should be seriously considered.  If it cannot, then that position must be rejected since the teaching of Scripture does not contradict itself.  If there is interest, I may explore one or two examples in a future post.  For the moment, though, the point is that we must determine to approach the Scripture humbly and honestly, with no axes to grind but only a desire to learn of the nature and will of God.  Due to some of the inevitable implications, for many, MANY years I wrestled with this teaching, desperately wanting (kicking and screaming, as it were) to deny it on the one hand, and yet knowing that it was undeniable on the other.

On Sunday, I addressed the topic in part 15 of my series, Portrait of A Savior.  I pray I did an honest and adequate job handling this subject, building my argument from a simple reading of John 6:22-71 as well as additional supporting passages.  My goal was not only to teach how Scripture is clear of God’s sovereign choice in election, but also the great paradox of man’s responsibility to believe and freely respond (as well as to explore the origin of “belief” itself).

To the best of my ability, the only presuppositions I deliberately and unapologetically start from are that Scripture is perfect in it’s teaching and, whatever formulation of predestination, freedom, election or salvation, God must be clearly seen as the Sovereign originator of salvation.  To do otherwise is to elevate man’s position above that of God, thereby glorifying man above God, and that must not happen.  God will not allow that to happen.  Isaiah is clear that He will share His glory with no one (Isaiah 41-42).

Again, this is a tough subject, but an important one, nonetheless, and one that provides the Believer with a certainty that, regardless of the storms, the trials and circumstances, Christ will never let go of all whom the Father gives Him.  At the end of the day, we may disagree on certain aspects of God’s application of His work of salvation.  However, for Christians of various doctrinal differences, our agreement (I trust!) is that salvation is through Christ alone (John 14:6), by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), resulting in repentance of sin and the desire for holiness (Romans 10:9-10).

My prayer is that, if you watch the following video, you will do so with a desire to hear from the Spirit of God through the Word of God, not with a closed spirit simply looking for grounds upon which to disagree or pick a fight.  I am certain there are plenty of opportunities for that.  That is, however, not my purpose.  My purpose is singular in nature and focus:  Soli Deo Gloria!

Portrait of a Savior, Part 15 from The Gathering on Vimeo.

For a pretty thorough handling of the Doctrine of Election, check out this explanation. (Sorry for those of you who, like me, aren’t big KJV people.)  It’s always a good idea to first study what you say you don’t believe to make sure you don’t actually believe it.  Caricatures abound!  😉

A Deal-Breaker

As a pastor, I don’t officially endorse candidates. I am a registered Independent who makes every attempt to take a biblical approach to issues related to politics.  Though I try to refrain from talking about specific candidates and believe it is wrong to turn a church pulpit into a political “stump”, it is my responsibility to speak truth wherever I see it.

The following is an excerpt of an article I read this morning on the platform being adopted by the Democratic Party at this years convention.  Fiscal issues I may disagree with aside, as a Christ-following political Independent, I can never support a candidate who takes this position:

The 2012 Democratic party will officially adopt an extreme position on the issue of abortion on Tuesday. According to a copy of the party platform, which was released online just before midnight on Monday, “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay.”

That last part—“regardless of ability to pay”—is an endorsement of taxpayer-funded abortions, a policy that President Obama has personally endorsed. (WS)

Clearly, there are thousands who agree with this position. That is beside the point.  It is beyond reprehensible to try and force people to pay who do NOT and who consider this practice to be nothing short of the legalized murder of a human being who has done nothing wrong but simply come into existence. I wrote more on the subject here.  

If there really is a desire to cut down on the number of abortions, how about government assistance for adoption instead?  THAT I could support.

On The Election

For the last two weeks at church, we’ve been discussing both the will of God and the Kingdom of God. This week we have a new president. Some are happy about that while others, well, not so much. The question I want to ask is, “Did the will of God occur?” I think the way you answer that will affect what your attitude will be in light of the results. There are basically two possibilities:

If you believe the will of God can be thwarted by man and you were not an Obama supporter, you’re likely to spend the next four years (at least) with a generally bad attitude, over-looking accomplishments and rejoicing with every mistake. The question we then must ask is whether or not that brings honor to Christ.

If, on the other hand, you believe that either God’s prescriptive will (that He ordained Obama’s election for His purpose) or His permissive will (that God allowed it to happen for His purpose) was done, then you will respond very differently, most likely spending time sincerely praying for this president and asking God to fulfill all that He wants to see happen with our Country through this leader.

It seems clear there is a different outcome, depending on your view of God’s will. Now, I understand that there are some who hold that God simply steps out of the way and permits us to do anything we want through a total freedom of our will. Though there is some biblical merit to the ability to disobey God’s directive through our freedom, clearly there are limits and it is a dangerous thing to make Man sovereign and reject both God’s right and ability to over-rule that will when He chooses. To get there, one must ignore a great deal of Scripture that speaks to the contrary. We must remember that “in his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9, NIV). I take great comfort in that! The greatest thing I can offer my children is not absolute freedom, but the assurance that I am in control and will protect them and guide them. I’m glad I have an omnipotent Dad who feels the same way.

I believe in and glory in what Paul said: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1, italics added). Interestingly, Paul made no exceptions and was clear that God holds absolute authority and raises up power according to His purpose (and Paul was speaking within the context and setting of the Roman Empire!). Remember how many times God raised up powers to rule over His people throughout biblical history? Though they may have been ungodly rulers, God had ordained it for His purpose and His people were to respect that authority (because of who they were rather than who the leaders were). Usually, through those rulers, God was determining His people’s steps, driving them back to Himself in spite of their rebellious will . He is a loving, caring, and sovereign Lord. You must decide if you believe that or not, but it will give you great peace and comfort if you do.

Finally, the Kingdom of God comes into play because of our citizenship. Because you are ambassadors for Christ in a world in which you do not belong, I want to encourage you to look at this from a Kingdom perspective. Determine that you are going to be “strangers in a strange land” whose mission is to bring glory to Christ and to reach out in love and compassion to all people, regardless of which side of the political “aisle” they support and pray for this Country, respecting and pray for this President. For some, it may be a difficult assignment, but I believe Christ will be honored.

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