If Only There Were Someone

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My Musings – Arbitrate: to settle (a dispute between two people or groups) after hearing the arguments and opinions of both.

Some say that Job is the oldest book in the Bible, in which case Job is “unwittingly” making the earliest prophecy about the coming Messiah.

If you browse the internet, you’ll find various opinions on what makes a good arbitrator.  Among them are competence, character, courage, commitment, compassion.  I would add at least one more: an intimate knowledge of both parties in the dispute.  Ever wonder why God became man though His Son Jesus Christ?  While this is undoubtedly a multi-dimensional question, perhaps this was one of the reasons.

Christ already had the divine perspective.  For He “is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being (Hebrews 1:3, NIV 1984).”  When He became man, He acquired the human perspective.  “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin (Hebrews 4:15, NIV 1984).”

My Advice – In the most important “dispute” of our lives, one with eternal consequences, we want more than a good arbitrator. We want the best.  Jesus is the best.  As a matter of fact, He is the only arbitrator that is able to “remove God’s rod from [us].

 

New Every Morning

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Nehemiah 9:17 – “But You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.” (NIV 1978)

My Musings – God did not discover grace, compassion, love and forgiveness in the New Testament.  It has always been there.  God did not compromise His justice, righteousness and wrath against sin in favor of these other qualities.  He reconciled  them at the intersection of the cross.  This was not a fall back plan after centuries of “failures” of the Law.  It was always the plan, even before He created man and woman.

My Advice – Available to all who believe and receive.  Do not pass it up.

Choose Wisely

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1 Chronicles 16:34Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. (NIV 1978)

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”.  “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver.  “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

My Musings – What is good?  We all have a general idea what it means to be good, and we usually contrast it with bad or evil.  But when it comes to man, in his fallen state, good is a relative term.  Relative to one another, but not to God.  In fact, the Bible states that “[t]here is no one righteous [good], not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10–12, NIV 1984).  Only God is good.

Before the fall, mankind desired the knowledge of good and evil more than life.  You might recall that there were two trees in the center of the garden – “In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Genesis 2:9, NIV 1984).

But only one was forbidden – “And 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.”  (Genesis 2:16–17, NIV 1984).  And that is the one they desired.

When it came to choices, mankind chose what was forbidden and forfeited what they already had – goodness and innocence.  It was a “fool’s choice,” for who needs to know the difference (good versus evil) when all they have and all they are is good and innocent?  In making the “fool’s choice” mankind also gave up the opportunity to live forever in that state (good and innocent).

As a consequence of that choice, God was no longer “safe,” for mankind.  But He was still good.  “He’s the King, I tell you.”  And His love “endures forever,” even in the wake of mankind’s bad choices.  Because of His goodness and love, He was compelled to provide a way back to the paradise lost, through the death and resurrection of the only man to ever be good (“the exact representation of His being“) relative to God – the second Adam, God’s only Son Jesus.  By accepting Christ, that goodness is imputed to man.  It all boils down to another choice.  This time will we choose the “tree of life” or will we continue to think that our ill-gotten knowledge is “better?”

My Advice – Choose wisely, choose life.

Incomplete Sentences

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Micah 6:8What does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – God requires more than justice, mercy and humility.  These are just things, mere nouns.   Rather, He requires that we act justly, love mercy and walk humbly. This transforms things into actions.  Actions that saw their ultimate fulfillment with Jesus death, burial and resurrection. Jesus walked humbly to the cross. By requiring His Son’s death on that cross to pay the penalty for our sins, God acted justly. Christ’s resurrection demonstrated that God accepted Jesus sacrifice on our behalf, and that He loved mercy.

My Advice – Without a verb (action) a sentence is incomplete.  Without verbs our justice, mercy and humility are incomplete.  Let’s take action to ensure that we are completing what God requires.

The Deeper Magic

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1 Samuel 15:22 – “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (NIV 1978)

My Musings – In the Garden (Eden) there was disobedience. God covered Adam’s and Eve’s nakedness, presumably from animals that were sacrificed.  The blood that was shed also covered their sin.

On the mountain (Moriah), Abraham was prepared to obey and sacrifice his son, but God prevented Him from doing so.  To obey is better, because it requires no sacrifice.

In the Garden (Mt. of Olives) Jesus prayed that if there was any other way, that He be spared from sacrificing His life.  Yet in obedience, He said “not my will but yours.”  In this instance, obedience (His) would necessarily lead to sacrifice because of disobedience (ours).

On the mountain (Golgotha), Jesus was sacrificed to atone for our disobedience.  There was no staying of the hand as in the case of Abraham, because there was no other way.  Christ’s obedience was more than sufficient to remove (not merely cover) the stain of our disobedience.

In the garden, the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty, as death (the “deep magic”) turned into life (the “deeper magic”).  The fall of mankind in one garden comes full circle with the redemption of mankind in another.

My Advice – We have victory over sin, death and judgement because of Christ’s obedience.  And while no further sacrifice is required, we nevertheless should still live a life of obedience.  If we confess our sins, He will forgive them.  But why go there in the first place?  Let’s show our appreciation for God’s “deeper magic” that overcame the curse of “deep magic.”

“But what does it all mean?” asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer.

“It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who has committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.”

(From “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis)

Your Sin Is Bigger Than My Sin

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John 8:3-12The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (NIV 1984)

Whether Great or Small – It is always difficult and dangerous to attempt to list sins according to their degree of seriousness. In one sense, all sins are equal in that they all separate us from God. The Bible’s statement, “For the wages of sin is death …” (Romans 6:23), applies to all sin, whether in thought, word, or deed.

At the same time, it seems obvious that some sins are worse than others in both motivation and effects, and should be judged accordingly. Stealing a loaf of bread is vastly different than exterminating a million people.

However, remember that whether our sins are relatively small or great, they will place us in hell apart from God’s grace. The good news is that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins and the sins of the whole world at the Cross. If we will repent and turn to Jesus in faith, our sins will be forgiven, and we will receive the gift of eternal life. (Billy Graham)

One Sin Makes You A Sinner – One leak will sink a ship: and one sin will destroy a sinner. (John Bunyan)

However, Your Sin Is Worse Than Mine? – A rather clever person once said: “Lord, help me forgive those who sin differently than I do.” (Crucial Conversations, by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler. McGraw Hill, 2012)

The similarities between [your sin and mine] are different. (Yogi Berra)

My Musings – We have a tendency to believe our sins are more forgivable (less bad) than the sins of others.  That was one of the main points of the story of the woman caught in adultery.  The teachers of the law saw her sin as so grievous it deserved death.  Jesus taught (reminded) them that they were all in the same “leaking ship” in danger of sinking.  I am reminded of a somewhat similar scene from Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring, where Frodo and Gandalf are debating the sins of that miserable creature Gollum:

Frodo:  “It’s a pity Bilbo didn’t kill him when he had the chance.”

Gandalf:  “Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand. Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death [cast the first stone] in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet, for good or ill before this is over. The pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.”

Frodo:  “I wish The Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had ever happened.”

Gandalf:  “So do all who live to face such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

My Advice – As I’ve written in a previous blog, there is no sin so great (probably someone else’s) that Jesus did not die for it, and no sin so small (obviously mine) that He did not have to die for it.   So let’s not be too eager to “deal out death” to others.  The “similarities in our sins may be different” but we are all in need of God’s grace and forgiveness (“pity”), that is found only in Jesus. He was the only One who ever paid (or could have paid) for our sins. His sacrifice was the only thing that could “stay [God’s] hand” of judgment.  “All we have to decide is what to do with the [opportunity] that is given to us.”

Let’s not forget the second main point in Jesus’ encounter with the woman caught in adultery, that we have a tendency to gloss over.  Just because we do not have the right to judge the sins of others, does not mean they are not sins.  Just because we may think that our particular sins are not serious enough to deserve judgment does not mean they do not.  If we are in Christ, our sins are forgiven, let’s show our gratitude by following His admonition to “go now and leave [our] life of sin.”

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