Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Riffing off the Gospel

I got an email question from a reader of the Abolitionist Society of Oklahoma blog and decided to answer it with an avalanche of Bible.

Hi ____,

It's my pleasure to read your email. Thanks for writing.
Yes, I am a Calvinist, and a recent one, actually. It was only just over 2 years ago that the implications and meaning of John 6:44-45 reached up from the page of the Bible and smacked me right between the eyes.

Your questions raise a lot of common questions, and I encourage you to open your Bible and keep it open as you're working through them. God took the trouble to reveal Himself to us poor rebels, and so let's be sure to follow Him wherever He leads. The questions you're raising have a great deal to do with the relationship of election/predestination and assurance.  How do we know that we belong to Jesus and are not self-deceived?

Let me start off with a biblical foundation and then we can go from there.

Eph 1:3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

Note here the intersection of the glory of God and the pleasure He takes in choosing some rebel sinners to whom to show kindness in saving them.  He really likes showing mercy to sinners, even to the point of dying on the cross!  He loved us so much to do that for us.
Note how it's "in love He predestined us" - it's not "in cold logic He predestined us" or "just because He felt like it He predestined us".  His actions toward us are motivated by love and kindness, just as it says in Romans 5:6For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

God demonstrated His LOVE for us in sending Jesus to die on the cross!

Do you believe that?  Cling to the cross; tell Jesus that you're His. Ask Him to save you, every day. Don't walk in discouragement or fear, though. Rather, pray through the Gospel every day, along the lines of 1 Tim 1:15It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. 16Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

Now, what does the Bible say about those who are not saved?

Jeremiah 17:9“The heart is more deceitful than all else
         And is desperately sick;
         Who can understand it?

10“I, the LORD, search the heart,
         I test the mind,
         Even to give to each man according to his ways,
         According to the results of his deeds.

Romans 3:9...we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin;

10as it is written,









Romans 8: 5For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.

The mind and heart that is lost and who is still in rebellion against God doesn't care about Jesus.  Lost people love their sin, just as Jesus said in John 3: 19“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20“For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed."

So do you care whether you have life? Do you recognise your hopelessness apart from Jesus?  Rejoice! He is a perfect Savior. Though you (and I) are a great sinner, He is a far stronger and greater Savior than you are a sinner. Rejoice because if it depends on you in any way, you are hopeless, but since it depends totally on Jesus, we have a great and joyful future. Remember how it says that He predestined us for "adoption as sons"?  We were once enemies of God, but now we are adopted children. We are heirs of eternal life. We have been given the seal, the down payment, of the Holy Spirit.

Listen to 1 John 5: 12He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. 13These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

Do you believe in the name of the Son of God? Then you have eternal life, and you can know it.

Now, a few other questions you asked.
Arrogant?  Far from it. Rather, biblically speaking, we were rebels and dead in sin.
Ephesians 2:  1And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Boasting? Continue with Ephesians 2: 8For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Romans 3:23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
 27Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

Notice v27 - by what kind of law? Of works? No, a law of faith.
The point is that if it were by law, by works that we did, then we might have some temptation to boast. But we didn't do anything to earn our salvation from sin.  Rather, we contributed sin! Jesus contributed the righteousness.
That is why we boast in the cross.
Galatians 6:14But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

We talk big about Jesus because He is that awesome. We talk ourselves down because we are sinfully prideful and because we are in fact nothing, while Jesus is everything.

Anyway, you said "How do I know I'm in the lucky few that made it?"
It has nothing at all to do with luck. Rather, it has to do with God's purpose. Look at Romans 9:10And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.” 13Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.”

Now, that's not to say that I know the entire purpose or even very much about it. I know that it's God's purpose to save people for His glory, but there is a lot I don't know.  And that's OK! That's God's business; He's smart enough to take care of that, and because He has transformed me, I trust Him.

Why evangelise? Simply put - God told us to. That is sufficient by itself.
But other reasons - we don't know who the elect are. As far as you know, everyone around you is elect, but only God knows that and He's not telling. He told you to tell people about Jesus and make disciples, so let's go for it and obey Him.
God uses the means to accomplish His will.  He doesn't zap people into the kingdom. He uses the proclamation of the Gospel.
1 Corinthians 1:18For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

19For it is written,

20Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

      26For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29so that no man may boast before God.

You said, "I also know that Moses was able to change God's mind"

Was he?  Maybe read the passage again, and ask yourself whether God was receiving new knowledge at that time, or if He was leading Moses along, provoking Moses to intercede for Israel, and then engaging Moses at Moses' level of knowledge.  God doesn't learn. He doesn't change His plan.  If He did, the original plan wouldn't be perfect, would it?  And God would have been corrected, would have improved.  The implications are staggering, but if we realise that God talks in baby-speak to us tiny humans, we can realise that He is instead just sharpening and sanctifying us.
Plus, in leading Moses to intercede, God was showing a foreshadow of the Messiah, who would be the one advocate, the intercessor between God and man (1 Tim 2:4-6).

As for the purpose of the lost, the non-elect, remember that they hate God. They want to destroy and supplant Him despite all His kindness to them in giving a wonderful world in which to live, and breath and food and water and love.
Read Romans 9's discussion of pots and the potter.  We won't fully understand God's purposes about that but we can know that one of the reasons God creates them is to display His sovereignty and the difference between mercy and justice.  Fundamentally, though, we have to ask ourselves to what extent we get to doubt, question, or judge God.  The answer: to no extent.  Let us humbly ask forgiveness and mercy for questioning Him, gratefully accept His forgiveness provided through the cross of Christ, and pray for grace to believe Him more fully.

I hope that helps. Let me know if I can be of any more help.
Romans 11: 33Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? 35Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? 36For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

Grace and peace,

(Please leave any comments at the Triablogue cross post.)

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