What Are You Pursuing?

Screenshot (535)

My Musings – We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – Preamble to the Declaration of Independence.

God gave us life and liberty (freedom to make our own choices).  The pursuit of happiness is a bit more problematic.  Man has a tendency to find (or think he can find) happiness in all the wrong places and with all the wrong things.  More often than not, these rob us of the very thing we are pursuing.  We would be better off pursuing joy (which is not dependent upon things or circumstances) rather than happiness (which usually is dependent upon things or circumstances).

Better yet, as the above verse states, we should pursue righteousness and love, which results in life, prosperity and honor.  We need to remember, however, that an abundant life is more about quality than quantity, lasting prosperity has little to do with an abundance of “things” (which moths and rust can destroy) and honor has more to do with our character than it does with how much fame an adulation we can achieve.  And how ironic it is, that when we get it backwards (we pursue long life, prosperity in things and honor absent humility), righteousness and love (and happiness) often eludes us.

My Advice – Let’s make sure what we pursue is not only worth the chase, but is also worth catching.

The Ransom Price

Screenshot (520)

My Musings – Redeem means to buy back, liberate or free a possession, object, or person, by the payment of a ransom.  Biblically, the term redemption indicates a freeing from the slavery of sin, in exchange for the ransom price.  Redeemer, is the one that pays the ransom (Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, 1988).

The ransom price must be of sufficient value to effect the exchange.  Ironically, in our fallen state, we have no intrinsic value that would merit any ransom price.  Yet Christ paid the ultimate price to redeem mankind.  The priceless in exchange for the worthless.  The ultimate in unmerited favor. Ever marvel at the love that had to be behind such a sacrifice? No wonder Job’s heart yearned within him.

My Advice – Our bargaining position is extremely weak.  We have nothing of value to offer ourselves.  Accept the ransom.

Stay With The 99

Screenshot (508)

2 Chronicles 15:2The Lord is with you when you are with Him.  If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – It is hard to walk against the wind, row against the current, ride a bike uphill or “kick against the goad.”  But these are nothing compared to going against or forsaking God’s Word.  There will still be difficult times in this world because our relationship with Christ earned us a new enemy.  Satan wants us to think that the winds, current and terrain are against us, but again these are nothing because they are from his hand not God’s.  God allows them to strengthen and temper us.  But we need not despair. In fact we can take heart, because Christ has overcome the word.

My Advice – Not all who wander are lost, but they still are wandering.  So, keep in step with Jesus. He will never leave nor forsake you, so do not leave or forsake Him.  Then we can take heart because “He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.

Grace Is Not License

Jude 4For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are Godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign Lord. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – They may not openly deny Christ. They may in fact claim to represent Christ. But if they pervert grace into permission to ignore God’s moral laws, they are in fact denying Jesus.

My Advice –  Be alert for doctrines and teachings that are contrary to or have a strained interpretation of the Scriptures. These can be more dangerous than the ones that openly and blatantly oppose the teachings of the Word.

Towards A New Birth of Freedom

Screenshot (414)

John 15:13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (NIV 1984)

Musings of Others – Today I’ve selected the musings of others to share as we commemorate Memorial Day 2019 and those brave soldiers who laid down their lives for their fellow country men and women.

  • Francis Scott Key – “Oh, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave?”
  • Unknown – “Our flag does not fly [“yet wave”] because the wind moves it. It flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it.”
  • George Washington – “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”
  • Abraham Lincoln – “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt – “Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them.”
  • John F. Kennedy – “The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission.”
  • Ronald W. Reagan – “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We did not pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

My Musings – Francis Scott Key might be surprised indeed that our flag still waves.  But he probably would not be surprised that it took the “last breath of [so many] soldier[s] who died protecting it” to keep it flying for so long.  As a nation, as individuals, we need to make sure that those soldiers who “gave [their] last full measure of devotion” did not “die in vain” and to not “forget in time that [these] men died to win” the freedoms we enjoy, that they continue to be “appreciated by their nation.”

It is sobering indeed to realize that “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,” something that Francis Scott Key probably realized when he penned those words.  So we need to continue to be vigilant that “these dead shall not have died in vain,” particularly given the fact that the “cost of freedom is always high.”  I would hate to think that following so close behind the “greatest generation” that I could be among the generation of that freedom’s extinction.

What is particularly sobering to me, is that today, what may be the greatest threat to this nation’s extinction, is not some foreign enemy, but ourselves.  As I see the bickering amongst our elected officials, the polarization of our citizens, and the animosity that seems to permeate the fabric of our nation, I fear that one other quote may become more prophetic than all of the others. For we have known all along that “a house divided against itself cannot stand:”

  • Nikita Khrushchev – “We do not have to invade the United States, [you will destroy yourselves] from within.”

My Advice – We need not “spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”  We need not choose the “path of surrender, or submission” or self-extinction.  How do we guard against it:

  • George Washington – “Be Americans. Let there be no sectionalism, no North, South, East or West [no Democrat or Republican, no liberal or conservative]. You are all dependent on one another and should be one in union. In one word, be a nation. Be Americans, and be true to yourselves.”

But more importantly be a nation “under God” that does “not perish from the earth” until Christ returns.  This is how we can best remember the “honored dead.”

2 Chronicles 7:14If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (NIV 1984)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walk This Way

Screenshot (390)

Leviticus 26:12 – “I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be My people.” (Leviticus 26:12)

My Musings – This verse must be read in context.  There is a condition that precedes it:  “If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands.”  There follows an impressive list of blessings capped off by this awesome promise in verse 12 above.  Of course, conditions always beg the question, what if the conditions are violated?  Following the blessings are a long list of consequences, which are often overlooked, because the conditions are often overlooked.  The word “if” should always give us pause.  This is the immediate context.

But the overriding context is that this is a promise to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament.  They were under the Law.  Thankfully, we are under grace and don’t have to worry about obedience (ugh, legalism!).  Or do we?  While it is abundantly clear that “it is by grace that [we] have been saved, through faith . . . not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9),” and many can readily quote this, we tend to overlook (and are unable to quote) verse 10:  “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Consider also want James says in the second chapter of his Epistle:

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

This is not a salvation of faith plus works theology, but rather a recognition that true saving faith results in a life that is transformed, and the transformation is evidenced by good works (and avoiding a sinful lifestyle).  A lack of good works (and a habitually sinful lifestyle) is likely evidence of a life that has not been transformed and calls into question whether there really was saving faith in the first place.  Of course, we must be careful here.  While salvation (justification) is a one time event initiated by grace through faith, transformation (sanctification) is a lifelong process.  People mature in the faith at varying paces, with many ups and downs.

Screenshot (388)

We are all used to people making claims. Politicians make claims about what they will do if they are elected. Advertisers make claims about the benefits of the product they are pitching. Suiters make claims about how much they love the person they are wooing. None of these claims are worth anything unless they are backed up by action. A politician risks not being reelected if they do not follow through with their campaign promises. Inventory will cease to move off store shelves if the product does not live up to the advertiser’s claims. Lovers grow apart when promised affections are not delivered.

So it is with our faith. A faith that transforms is a faith that performs. Faith inaction becomes a faith in action. Doing the least for the Kingdom becomes doing for even the least in the Kingdom. So how are things with you? Is your faith alive or dead? Is your “work produced by faith?” Is your “labor prompted by love?” Is your “endurance inspired by hope?” Are you seeking to do the “good works, which God prepared in advance for [you] to do?”

My Advice – So back to the verse in Leviticus.  If we expect God to “walk” with us, we need to be walking in the same direction.

 

 

Study 7 – Predestination Revisited

Screenshot (241)

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