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!  😉

Looking for God in the Whirlwind

OKTornadoI have been following the reports about the Oklahoma tornado since it happened yesterday. The more I watch, the sadder I get.

As I’ve seen the images, my mind has involuntarily weaved together scenarios of the lives that have been decimated. I’ve pictured the lives of those little children who woke up yesterday morning, got dressed similar to the way mine did, headed off to school, ate lunch, passed notes in class, played at recess, then headed into the hallways when they heard the tornado alarms. For so many, that was it. They’ve yet to be removed from the rubble at this point. It’s really hard to wrap my mind around it.

It’s always in times like these that the theological questions arise: How could God allow this to happen? Why didn’t God stop this? Where was He?

I understand the questions. Typing this right now, I am overwhelmed by the pain that is left in the wake of something like this. Couldn’t God have stopped this? Couldn’t He have answered so many prayers for protection over these people? Did it have to happen this way?

Answers aren’t easy and for some, certainly won’t be sufficient. It seems to me that the answers are yes, He could have stopped it. He is all-powerful. He could have answered those prayers for protection. He could have prevented death in the midst of destruction. So, why didn’t He?

I don’t know.

That leaves the final question: Did it have to happen this way?  The only thing I can come up with is that I suppose it did only because it is, in fact, what happened.  I’ll try and explain what I mean.  I believe that God is sovereign and, therefore, in control over every aspect of creation. I believe that nothing happens outside either the prescriptive will of God (meaning that He causes something to happen) or the permissive will of God (He allows something to happen; doesn’t stop it).  I also believe that God is not capricious, so because He allowed it, there was a reason for it to happen as it did, though you and I may never know why.

Someone on the radio this morning was trying to answer the “Where was God?” question. The response was something like this: “God was there in the people who responded. He was there in the love that was shown by those who survived and came in and helped with the recovery.”

While I agree with that, in part, I’m not satisfied. It makes it sound as if God was absent during the storm. Those are the moments we don’t know about. Maybe it would be more understandable if God had been away on His lunch break and just missed it, otherwise He would have stopped it. That’s not the case, though. We have to acknowledge a hard fact: God was there during the storm and He allowed it to happen. You just have to accept that or reject Him outright, which plenty are doing (Frankly, I would be more concerned to think that God would “check out” for a while).

Why would He allow this?

Specifically, I don’t know. I don’t pretend to know the motives of God in what He does. He doesn’t ask me (or you) for counsel or permission, nor does He give an explanation for Himself to us.  I just know that He is good. I also know that even though He could stop the storm, we aren’t in any position to blame Him or get mad at Him. Instead, we should run to Him.

The storm is our fault.

That’s right, our fault. Please read on before you tune me out.  Scripture is clear that it is the rebellion of man from God that has caused all form of destruction in this world, including storms and earthquakes and other forms of natural and man-made disasters.

Ironically, I preached from Hosea 7 and 8 this past Sunday. I talked about “The Calamity of Sowing the Wind”. The verse from which that title was taken was 8:7: “…they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” In this passage, the whirlwind that God is talking about is metaphorical. However, the principal applies to all forms of judgement: If we sow the wind, we reap the whirlwind, metaphorically and sometimes literally.

OK, stop right there.

I am NOT going “Pat Robertson” on this situation and saying that this tornado is judgement on the people of Moore, Oklahoma.

As I already said, I have no idea of God’s purpose for allowing this or any other storm. My point, instead, is that storms are the result of sin, in general. When Adam sinned in Genesis 3, the affects were felt throughout creation. The earth was cursed, making it difficult for him to grow food. This is a very different picture than the one we get when God created the earth, declaring it to be “good.” Post-Genesis 3, we don’t get a picture of “good.” We get a picture of chaos, a result of the sin of Man.

Does this mean that innocent people must suffer? No, only because there are no innocent people in the world. We are all sinners (Romans 3:23), so no one is immune from the natural or man-made disasters in this world, whether a child of God or not. My sin in Tennessee is as much to blame for tornadoes in Oklahoma than anybody who had to endure it. That is humbling.

So, what do we do about it?

If we embrace this explanation, what should our response be? I can only say that it leads me to repent*. I am drawn into a place of confessing my failure before God, begging for mercy, realizing that my sin has contributed to this broken world we live in.

It’s also led me to a place of worship. In the midst of this tragedy and the realization that it is the sin of man that has caused it, I am thankful that the work of Christ on the cross has led to mercy so that, though we have to deal with a broken world now, those who trust in Christ don’t have to dread a broken eternity.

If you’re going through the tragedy on the ground, I’m sure it can feel hopeless…at least until the storm is over and you can see that God was there throughout. You hear testimonies of people who feel the strength and hope and peace arise where there should be none. That is God. He is there. He was there during this storm and through the tragic shooting in Connecticut and through every other disaster that has ever occured throughout history.

Honestly, I’m still struggling to wrap my mind around the level of devastation I am seeing in Oklahoma, but I am not struggling with my belief in a faithful, loving God. When I understand the nature of sin, I understand how God could allow it and I look forward to the day that He culminates His redemptive work in a restored heaven and earth, where sin has been abolished.

So, in the end, all I can say is don’t run from Him. He is good and He really is in control, even in the whirlwind.

Run to Him.

 

————–

* Repentance is not just about feeling sorry, but about actually being remorseful for our sin and turning away from it (as in a military call to “about face!”). If we’re serious about repentance, we don’t want to continue in it, we ask God to forgive us and to give us strength to forsake it.

T-Shirt Theology

CrossHillBWI’m often amazed at how easy it is to become so focused on a thought we want to convey that we lose sight of truth, often derailing the very point we set out to make.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

This morning, I heard a guy on the radio make the following statement:

The cross was no cosmological accident; no knee-jerk reaction. It was a calculated plan. The moment the forbidden fruit touched the mouth of Eve, the shadow of the cross appeared on the horizon.

Sounds, beautiful, no? It really does.

“The moment the forbidden fruit touched the mouth of Eve, the shadow of the cross appeared on the horizon”.

That could be printed on a T-shirt and sold for $15 with every major Bible bookstore stacking it on its shelves.

The only problem is that, in spite of claiming that the cross was no knee-jerk reaction, the explanation sounds like a knee-jerk reaction.

Think about it.

According to this statement, the cross was a response to the action of Eve. Sounds logical, right?  Problem arises, solution follows.  Sounds palatable. But is it accurate?

If that’s true, then this is false:

18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. [1 Peter 1:18-21. Emphasis added]

And this:

7 Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, 8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. [Revelation 13:7-8. Emphasis added]

In these two passages, both communicating a pre-determined plan of God prior to the creation of the world,  the first part of the above quote is affirmed: The cross was no cosmological accident or knee-jerk reaction. The second part, however, implies the opposite.

Though it sounds good, it’s not good. The only way for this not to be a knee-jerk or something that God had to react to (an assault on his omniscience) is for it to have been part of his plan from the beginning. That affirms the passages in 1 Peter and Revelation.  If that was what was meant, it’s not what was communicated.

Somehow, God had planned to reveal Christ to the world long before creation in the exact way in which He did. At the right time, God began to put the plan in motion (i.e. when the fruit was tasted and the fall occurred), revealing to us the glorious Christ as it unfolded.

I admit, that makes for a bad t-shirt, but it makes for a wonderful, sovereign, omniscient God.

It is especially important for those of us who are charged with communicating Truth to the masses (but applies to anyone conveying Truth), to be extra careful with our theology so that, in our desire for pithy slogan-making and sentimental ideas, we don’t misrepresent the character of God and miscommunicate the very Truths we are trying to convey.

Luck and The Providence of God

ImageAs you undoubtedly know, yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day (see, I’m here to help).  At The Gathering, we took the opportunity to deal with a very important theological concept: The Providence of God.  The following is essentially a transcript of that message altered a bit to make it a little more readable.  You can view it on demand here.

One of the things many think about on St. Patrick’s Day besides wearing green and pinching people who didn’t is this being a “lucky day.” “The luck of the Irish” is a term that most Americans have heard and think about the little Lucky Charms leprechaun on the cereal box and how if you are lucky enough to catch one, he’ll lead you to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Certainly, the idea of luck is not limited to the Irish (which, most will say, would historically be considered bad luck!). We use the term all the time: “Look at that, parking spot right up by the door. Must be my lucky day!” “I got lucky and picked the right raffle number.” “Dude, you’re lucky she is both beautiful and has bad taste or you wouldn’t have had a shot!”

Luck is a big part of our vocabulary. I wonder if it’s a part of our theology? Is there such a thing as luck? When we say we’re “fortunate,” are we saying the same thing, but in a less secular way?

Luck in the Bible

Actually, you won’t find luck talked about in Scripture…primarily because it is a term that flies in the face of the sovereignty of God. Luck refers mainly to happenstance; chance. A great example is playing a game like Blackjack and many other card or dice games where you will only win if you happen to have been dealt a good hand or a good roll of the dice. Often, there is very little, if any, skill involved. We would commonly refer to this as either having good luck or the opposite: David luck. I hardly ever win at anything.

At the other end of the spectrum is the opposite of blind chance which is control. This implies purpose and the power to bring the results of purpose about. Theologically, we refer to this as providence. Now, if you break open the concordance, you won’t find the word “providence” in there in reference to God’s sovereignty. Again, it is a theological word used to describe a biblical concept.

What is providence?

In his book, Bible Doctrines, Wayne Grudem defines providence as God’s continual involvement “with all created things in such a way that he (1) keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them; (2) cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do; and (3) directs them to fulfill his purposes.

OK, that’s a good, thorough definition there. Let’s break it down. What is this talking about? In essence, the providence of God means that God is not simply some great cosmic clock-maker who created the world and then set it in motion and moved away hoping that everything works out. It’s not as one pastor I heard years ago say, “God did all He could when Jesus died, then He went back to heaven and left it up to us.” That is borderline heresy (and possibly, the other side of the border!). There is nothing in Scripture that says this. In fact, in the Great Commission, Jesus talks about all authority being given to Him and that He would be with us always to the end of the age. Further, He promised that when He returned to the Father, He would send the Comforter (John 16:7). Hebrews 1 tells us that He [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” In Colossians 1:17, Paul says that “in [Christ], all things hold together.”

The providence of God means that He is constantly holding everything in the universe together, maintaining order, implying that if He removed Himself, even for an instance, cosmic chaos would result.

That’s the first part of the definition.

The second involves God’s intimate involvement in all that happen on the earth, including the actions of his creatures…that, of course, includes us. Ephesians 1:11 says, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will…“. Isaiah 46:8-11 says,

“8 “Remember this and stand firm,    recall it to mind, you transgressors,9     remember the former things of old;for I am God, and there is no other;    I am God, and there is none like me,10 declaring the end from the beginning    and from ancient times things not yet done,saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,    and I will accomplish all my purpose,’11 calling a bird of prey from the east,    the man of my counsel from a far country.I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;    I have purposed, and I will do it.

God is the Great “I AM” who will do what He pleases, regardless of our approval. He is God…we are not. That’s a fact you really don’t want to forget.

The Extent of God’s Providence

Put simply, the sovereignty of God is universal, meaning that it extends to all of creation.  The following is just a small listing of some of the major areas of God’s control:

1. “Natural events”

These are events that have an immediate identifiable “scientific” cause like weather.  We can explain the processes of how the rainbow is made and clouds form and weather patterns and systems.  Scripture says, though, that God is the one who created the systems we see at work.  Check out Job 37:6-13

6 For to the snow he says, ‘Fall on the earth,’ likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour.7 He seals up the hand of every man, that all men whom he made may know it.8 Then the beasts go into their lairs, and remain in their dens.9 From its chamber comes the whirlwind, and cold from the scattering winds.10 By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast.11 He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning.12 They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world.13 Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen.

2. The Animal Kingdom.

God is the Creator and Sustainer of all living creatures as we see in Psalm 104: 24-30:

24 O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.25 Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great.26 There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.[b]27 These all look to you, to give them their food in due season.28 When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.30 When you send forth your Spirit,[c] they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.

3. The affairs and leaders of nations. 

This one might stretch your belief in the control of God in this area when you thing of the condition of the world.  Yet, nothing is going to happen outside of God’s oversight.  More about that a little further down.  Keep reading.
Job 12:23-25

23 He makes nations great, and he destroys them;
he enlarges nations, and leads them away.
24 He takes away understanding from the chiefs of the people of the earth
and makes them wander in a trackless waste.
25 They grope in the dark without light,
and he makes them stagger like a drunken man.

Acts 17: 24-26

24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,[c] 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,

Proverbs 21:1 (love this one!)

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord;
he turns it wherever he will.

4. Extends even to the bad things that happen

Probably nothing illustrates this point more than the account of Joseph.  As a teenager, he is sold into slavery to some Egyptians due to jealousy.  After years in captivity and because of the blessing of God, he’s promoted to second in command of all of Egypt!  How’s that for climbing the corporate ladder?  Now, look at what happened when he comes face-to-face with his brothers for the first time as they have come to Egypt for food:

Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.
Genesis 45:4-9

Don’t misinterpret this. This doesn’t mean that God caused the evil that led Joseph’s brothers to want to kill him or ultimately sell him into slavery, but because of His providential, sovereign control, it means He can use the most vile people (even the Devil, Himself, as He did in Job) to bring about His purpose.  This is the emphasis behind Romans 8:28:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[a] for those who are called according to his purpose.

5. God’s providence extends even to things that appear to be chance.

This deals with the question of “luck”.  I think Proverbs 16:33 is one of the coolest passages:

The lot is cast into the lap,
but its every decision is from the Lord.

Now take a look at this in action in Acts 1:21-25

21So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

OK, we have to stop for a second and unpack this a little.  Notice they didn’t just flippantly throw the dice and say, “well, let’s see how this works out….”  Further, they didn’t handle it democratically.

They prayed.

They wanted God’s choice and they knew they didn’t know who that was.  They didn’t want this to be who the majority of them wanted, but, believing Proverbs 16:33, they asked God to choose by controlling the roll…and they cast the lots.

Implications

There are at least two important implications to the extensive providence of God in the world:

1. Nothing happens outside of either God’s prescriptive will (God directly causes or “prescribes” that something happens) or His permissive will (God allows or “permits” something to happen) will. If He doesn’t want it to happen, it WILL NOT happen.  However, due to the fallen condition of man as a result of our sinful fall, evil happens in the world and God often allows it to happen.  Through it, though, God has a purpose that will, in some way, ultimately glorify Himself.

2. Fate or luck does not exist. Nothing happens by chance.  Uh…period.

Responding to God’s Providence

1. Humbly
OK, one more time, in case we didn’t get a grip on this point earlier:  He is God and you are not. It really doesn’t matter if you like the idea of providence or not. As Paul said, in Romans 9, “Who are you, O Man, to answer back to God.” This does not mean we do not make willing choices, but if Scripture is true in light of a king’s heart being as a stream of water in the hand of the Lord so that He turns it any way He wishes as He did with Pharoah in dealing with the Children of Israel, then we have to ask, “Who formed our will to make those choices?

You do something because you want to. Does that eliminate God from giving you a particular “want to?” Can’t He convince you of your desires and even shape them…even if you don’t even realize it so that it is what you want to do more than anything?  I mean something shapes your desires, right?  Do you prefer some mindless force or blind circumstances, alone, to do it?  Would you not rather the good and gracious God influence you?  Are we really that naive as to think anything or anyone can do better than God?  Does He not have rightful control over those whom He has made? Again, Romans 9, verse 20, Paul argues, “Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay….?

This should not be something that we should want to fight against unless we are hell-bent on our own autonomy which is what led to the fall of man in the first place. God’s providence ensures us that God will bring about His good purpose, despite our most valiant efforts to the contrary!

Nothing illustrates this better than one of the two times Abraham tried to pass his wife, Sarah, off as his sister to the leaders of the land.  He did this because she was beautiful and he feared he would be killed in order to get to his wife.  Here’s a brief account of what happened from Genesis 20:

Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb and lived between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. 2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. 3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” 4 Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent people? 5 Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” 6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. 7 Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”

Look at that.  God didn’t let the king sin.  He stepped in and kept the sin from happening even though the king wanted Sarah.  God was like, “No, you don’t. You just think you do. You’re not going to do it.”  Now, could the king still have gone through with it?  Seems clear he could have because God gave a pretty stern warning if he proceeded, but do you really think there was a practical option for the king?  Do you actually think the king wasn’t going to be convinced by that?  Yeah…not happening.

2. Thankfully
We’re not victims to some blind and uncaring fate or chance. God has a plan and will see that plan through completely. I’m thankful for that!  I go back to Isaiah 46:9-11:

I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
10 declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
11 calling a bird of prey from the east,
the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
I have purposed, and I will do it.

3. Boldly
God’s will is going to be done. This should remove fear from our lives.  Check out what Jesus said in Matthew 10: 28-31:

Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.[g] 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?[h] And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

If God calls you to do something (which should be confirmed through His Word along with godly counsel according to His Word), then you can pursue it with confidence.

4. Worshipfully
God’s providence in the world is reason for God to be worshiped and adored (you’ve heard of prayers of adoration, right?).  He is worthy to be worshiped for being GOOD and IN CONTROL!  For either one of those two characteristics to be lacking would be catastrophic for us.

Read what Jonathan Edwards in his sermon, “God’s Sovereignty in the Salvation of Men”, said about worshiping God because of his sovereignty:

Our Lord Jesus Christ praised and glorified the Father for the exercise of his sovereignty in the salvation of men. Matt. 11:25,26. ‘I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.’ Let us therefore give God the glory of his sovereignty, as adoring him, whose sovereign will orders all things, beholding ourselves as nothing in comparison with him.

Be encouraged!  Even though it seems as though this world is getting crazier and more out of control, it’s not out of God’s control.  Everything that He has purposed will come to be.  You can bet on it.

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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