What Can Man Do?

Hebrews 13:5, 6 –  Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (NIV 1978)

My Musings – We have because God has given it to us. We do not have, because God has not given it to us. Either way we can and should be content. Because God will never leave us or forsake us.

My Advice – Work hard to achieve and attain, but do not let it consume you. Be content with however God blesses you, whether with much or little.

Treatment as Sons (Daughters)

Hebrews 12:7,8Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – There are two kinds of discipline. Discipline to bring correction and discipline to train and strengthen.

My Advice – As a Son, you will be disciplined. Welcome it as a sign of true “sonship.” Make sure you know which type it is and act accordingly: ask for forgiveness or ask to learn whatever lesson is being taught.

I Did It My Way

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James 4:1-3What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives.  (NIV 1984)

Regrets, I’ve Had A Few – Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.  (Ambrose Bierce)

But Then Again, Too Few To Mention? – When faced with pressure and strong opinions, instead of adding constructive dialogue, we often look for ways to win, punish or keep the peace.

Win – We may attempt to correct the “facts,” quibble over details, and/or point out the flaws in others’ points of view, with a view to winning. The truth at all costs (even if we happen to be right) loses out over our truth at all costs. And the costs could be very high in terms of broken relationships.

Punish – As our passion rises, we may move from merely wanting to win to also punishing those who disagree.  It is no longer good enough to win, we must make the other(s) regret challenging our truth.  Why would we want to vindictively punish someone we care about?  Down deep (in the heart of the matter) we don’t.  But on the surface (in the heat of the matter) we do. And the costs could be very high in terms of the inability to eventually repair broken relationships.

Clam Up – Then there is the other extreme, we become so focused on keeping the peace and avoiding conflict, that we go to silence. We avoid making waves. As a result, we accept the certainty of bad results (which includes no resolution). We don’t have enough trust in the relationship to take the risk of hurt feelings.  And the costs could be very high in terms of relationships that do not grow.

Heart – When any of these begin to occur (win, punish, clam up), we need to refocus. What are my true motives? What do I really want, for myself, for others, and for the relationship? This helps us regain our bearings, the “North Star” on our moral compass. We need to clarify what we really want and what we really don’t want.  People skilled at moving through crucial, high-stakes issues start with the heart, in order to keep their motives pure and to stay focused. They do not allow themselves to become motivated by winning at all costs, punishing or avoiding the issue altogether. (Notes from Crucial Conversations, by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler. McGraw Hill, 2012.)

My Musings – We won’t always win the argument, sometimes because we are on the wrong side of it.  But even if we are right, we should take care that we don’t win the argument and lose the heart.

My Advice – Start with the heart and stay with the heart.  Do it “His” way.

Study 7 – Predestination Revisited

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Predestination – Literally before (pre) we arrive at our destination (heaven or hell). Our ultimate destination is determined before we are even born by God choosing us. Both Calvinism (not the Calvin above) and Arminianism agree on this.

What else did we learn?

A. God’s ElectionHe chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will (Ephesians 1:4-5, NIV 1984).

Arminianism – Man cannot be saved apart from the grace of God, but rather he must cooperate with or assent to the grace (salvation not wholly dependent upon God’s grace).

Calvinism – Salvation wholly dependent upon the grace of God. Man is not even capable of cooperating or assenting to God’s grace without the intervention of God.

The issue is: what is the basis of this election – His pleasure and will or His knowledge of man’s ultimate decision?

B. God’s SovereigntyHis dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34-35, NIV 1984)

The issue is: why do some people perish (go to hell)? Does this mean that God is not sovereign (cannot prevent people from perishing), or does it mean He is not good (chooses to allow people to perish)?  Since these are inconsistent with what we know about God, these cannot be the only choices.

God could decide to not give anyone who has fallen an opportunity for salvation. The only objection to this would be that God is being just, not that He is being unmerciful. God is not obligated to be merciful, because mercy is not an obligation. Justice can be owed but mercy is not obligatory. But God did not choose to not save anyone.

God could provide an opportunity for some or everyone to be saved. But there would be no guarantee that anyone would be saved.

God could exercise His sovereignty and ensure the salvation of some or everybody. God did not choose to ensure the salvation of everyone (universalism). This is not Biblical, because we know many will indeed perish. Some will be lost (particularism).

The issue is: Is it an injustice if God ensures the salvation of some but not all the fallen? Or, is God being more merciful by ensuring the salvation of some rather than just an opportunity that may not be taken?  The saved get mercy, the lost get justice. No one gets injustice. Mercy is not justice and it is not injustice. It is non-justice. No one has been or ever will be the object of injustice at the hands of God.

C. Man’s Free WillSo I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (Romans 7:21, 25, NIV 1984)

Jonathan Edwards – Free moral agents always act according to the strongest inclination (desires) that they have at the moment of choice.

Calvin – If free will means that fallen man has the ability to choose what he wants, he has free will. If free will means that fallen man has the moral power and ability to choose righteousness, he lacks free will, because he cannot always do so.

Sproule – Every choice that man makes is free (self) and every choice that man makes is determined. Seems like a paradox because free and determined (caused by something outside man’s will) are generally considered to be mutually exclusive.

The issues are:  If my desires determine my choice, how can I be free?  Does fallen man retain in His heart any desire for God?

D. God’s Drawing – “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” (John 6:65, NIV 1984)

No One – Universal negative. No exceptions.

Can Come – Can has to do with ability. No one has the natural ability to come.

Unless – A necessary condition happens.

Enabled – The word is ambiguous.

This is why I told you” is a repetition of John 6:44 – “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (NIV 1984)

The issue is: What does it mean to draw?

Arminian – To draw means to entice, woo, attract. Drawing is still resistible.

Calvinism – To draw means to drag or coerce (James 2:6 and Acts 16:19). It means to compel by irresistible superiority.

Which makes more sense?

E. God’s Justice & MercyBefore the twins (Jacob and Esau) were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election [choice] might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated [rejected].” What then shall we say? Is God unjust [unrighteous]? Not at all [may it never be]! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort [exertion], but on God’s mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore, God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. (Romans 9:10-18, NIV 1984)

Jacob and Esau were twins. Everything that could possibly be the same, was the same. Yet God chose one (the younger) and rejected the other (the elder), before they were even born.

The issue is: On what is God’s election based?

Foreknowledge View (Arminian) – God’s election before anyone is born (from the foundation of the world) is based upon His foreknowledge of what man will ultimately do after they are born. Based on this prior knowledge God makes His choice (election), knowing what man will choose. Final decision is based upon a human choice, not upon a divine action.

Awkward Silence View (Calvinism) – While the text says God chooses before man is born, and thus before man can do anything good or evil, it does not explicitly state that His choice is based on His foreknowledge. The text does say, however, that it does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort [exertion], but on God’s mercy. Calvinist view is that this statement contradicts Arminian view (depends on man’s choice, which God has foreknowledge of).

Once gain, the issue is:  Is God being unfair?

Divine Prerogative – “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” Some receive a measure of mercy that others do not. No one receives injustice. If God only gave justice no one would be saved. God is not being unfair. He is being unequal. We must be careful to not claim that God is not being merciful or gracious enough because He does not choose to show it to all equally. This implies God is not doing what He should (obligated to) do (sinful). God is not obligated to be merciful. Mercy is not an obligation.

F. Man’s Evangelistic EffortsAs for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings (lusts, passions) of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive (quickened us) with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:1-5, NIV 1984)

Divine initiative – But God (not but man) made us alive even though we were dead (not sick, not dying) because of our sins. The 1st step is accomplished (initiated) by God (divine) not man.

Once made alive, man can choose, believe and repent because we are alive to God. Before we are made alive one cannot do any of this. Dead men don’t choose. Dead men cannot choose.

The issue is:  If some are chosen (pre-destined) from the creation of the world, and some are not, with or without anyone bearing witness why do evangelism?

Because Jesus commands it (Great Commission)!  Why command something that is not necessary?

God has not only sovereignly decreed the end (elected), but He has also sovereignly decreed the means (evangelism) of bringing man to salvation. He did not need us to accomplish His unconditional election, but He chose to include us as the means.

Notes from: Chosen by God, R.C. Sproul

Fixed Eyes

Hebrews 12:1,2Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – Entanglement happens without effort, but it takes effort to throw it off. But not as much as we might think, if we allow the Holy Spirit to empower us with His strength.

My Advice – Don’t allow anything in your life that would hinder your walk with Christ. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, so you don’t begin to sink like Peter did.

For Sure & For Certain

Hebrews 11:1Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – We hope for things we do not have. But if we have faith we are sure we one day will. We can be certain of things we cannot see, if we have faith. If we have faith, we do not have to see to believe.

My Advice – If your sureness is based upon only what you have, not what you hope for, and only on what you can see, it is not much of a faith. Trust God to fulfill your hopes and give you certainty in the face of uncertainty.

All The More

Hebrews 10:24Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – Many of the signs are there that the Day is indeed approaching. But we have not heeded the warning. Regular Church attendance, even by devout believers, has been in the decline for many years.

My Advice – Find a Bible believing Church, that teaches the truth in love, and make it your habit to not only attend regularly, but become involved. You need it, and it needs you.