Walk This Way

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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.

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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

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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

Study 3 -All Christians Believe In Free Will?

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Romans 7:21, 25So 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. (NIV 1984)

Humanist View – Man makes choices spontaneously. Nothing prior to the choice determines the choice. This is not a Christian view.

Moral Problem – If purely spontaneous, there is no reason, motivation or intent for the choice. Thus, it has no moral significance. God considers the intent of choices. If there is no intent, there is no moral significance.
Practical Problem – Without motivation or a reason[ing], is it really a choice? What does it matter? Why make a choice if there is no reason to? Choice without a motivation is like an effect without a cause, which is a practical impossibility. You cannot have something out of nothing.

Jonathan Edward’s Law of Free Will – Free will is the mind choosing. Choices cannot be made independent of the mind. Free (no coercion) moral agents always act according to the strongest inclination (desires) that they have at the moment of choice. There is always a reason for every decision.

Coercion – Outside forces (forcing is not free will) affect choices against our will. Strongest inclination in this instance is likely not our strongest inclination absent the coercion.
Desires Change – Our strongest desire absent temptation may be to please God, but when temptation to sin comes our strongest desire may be to give in and we make that choice freely.

Calvin’s View – 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.

Paradox View (Sproul) – Every choice that man makes is free and every choice that man makes is determined. Paradox because free and determined (caused by something outside man’s will) are generally considered to be mutually exclusive.

It Is Not Determinism – Things happen to man solely due to external forces.
It is Determined – If choices flow from a man’s dispositions and desires, which are internal forces, and if man’s actions are an effect that have causes and reasons behind them, these internal desires determines man’s personal choice.

The question is: if my desires determine my choice, how can I be free?

Because what determines my choice is me (choices are both free and determined). This is called self-determination, which is not the denial of freedom, but rather it is the essence of freedom. Not only may we choose according to our desires, we do (perhaps must) in fact choose according to our desires and inclinations. The essence of freedom is to choose what you want.

This leads to fallen man’s problem: fallen man sins because they want to sin, which means that man sins freely.  Sinners reject Christ because they want to (freely) reject Christ.

In order to choose Christ, fallen man must want (have a desire) to do so.

The question is: Does fallen man retain in His heart any desire for God?

Moral Ability versus Natural Ability (Edwards) – Moral ability means the ability to be righteous or sinful. Man was created with the ability to be righteous or sinful. In his fallenness, man lost his ability to be righteous in and of himself because he is born with a sin nature. He has lost the ability to be totally righteous. Natural abilities are abilities we have by our nature (Man has the ability to think, reason and stand upright. Man does not have the ability to fly unaided). In his fallenness, man lost the natural ability to be righteous (what is natural is to sin). Will is inclined to evil and disinclined to righteousness.

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

Not Everything

1 Corinthians 10:23“Everything is permissible” – but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible” – but not everything is constructive.  (NIV 1978)

My Musings – It is true that we live by grace. But that does not give us a license to sin. There are still things that simply are neither beneficial nor constructive and we should avoid them.

My Advice – Do not buy into any claims that because of grace you should be allowed do anything you want. God’s moral laws are still His laws.

License to Sin?

Romans 6:1What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (NIV 1984)

My Musings – People will make any excuse to legitimize their sinful habits and desires. Even going to the extreme of perverting God’s grace.

My Advice – Do not let anyone convince you that grace gives you freedom to sin. It is not true. While God’s grace is bigger than any sin you could commit, it is not a license to continue in sin.

The Yoke Is Broke

The Yoke Is Broke

Leviticus 26:13 – “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high.” (NIV 1978)

My Musing – The yoke of sin has been broken, but we all too often walk with ours heads bowed under the heavy burden of sin. We continue to live sinful lives and be slaves to sin when we do not have to. God has enabled us to break free. But we choose to continue as slaves.

My Advice – Live the life that you were called to when you accepted Christ as your Savior. You do not have to be a slave to sin of any kind and you do not have to break free from it on your own power. God has already freed you.

You Are Free

For my first series of musings, I am sharing from “A Dad’s Devotions.” “A Dad’s Devotions” was a 365-day devotional that I wrote for my son Joel for his graduation from college in 2007. Each day included a verse from the Bible, my impressions (musings) and some advice for my son. Joel is graciously letting me pass these musings along to you. I hope you find them helpful.

You Are Free

Genesis 2:16And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (NIV 1978)
My Musing – Freedom (“you are free”), responsibility (you must not eat”), choice (“when you eat’) and consequences (‘you will surely die’). A complete package, all present from the beginning. Freedom is not a license to act outside the will of God. While we may choose to do so, there will inevitably be consequences if we do.
My Advice – Be responsible in how you exercise the freedom that God gives you. Make wise choices that are consistent with God’s moral laws. This way you can avoid the consequences of wrong choices.