Delightfully Intertwined

January 25, 2016 at 2:54 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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When I was in elementary school, we used to play a silly little game. One kid would cross his arms in front of him, turn his palms inward to face each other, lace the fingers of his hands together, then pull his hands up and in, turning the wrists over, so that his hands were sort of held together the way we sometimes do in prayer, but reversed.

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The person facing him would then tap one of his fingers to see if he could – while watching the tap – move the finger that was tapped. For most people it’s a little harder than it sounds to move the correct finger right away. I’m sure there is some scientific (and somewhat dry) explanation for why it’s difficult, and it probably involves concepts like hand-to-eye coordination and muscle memory. I’m not saying those things aren’t interesting. I’m sure to plenty of people they are. However, there is also joy and wonder and plan old fun in playing the game and trying it out.

Since you became a Christian (IF in fact you HAVE become a Christian), I hope you have been reading your Bible with diligence, fascination, and delight. I also hope you have meditated deeply on what you have read and are reading. Bible study is one of the key ingredients to Christian growth, and you will never fully experience the fullness of Christ the way He wants you to unless you engage in it.

However, as you read more and more of the Bible, and as you think more and more deeply about God, you are bound to come upon certain concepts which are difficult for the finite mind to reconcile. One of the ones I am most often asked about is the perceived tension between man’s will and God’s sovereignty. In explaining what the Bible teaches about these concepts I find it helpful if I can keep myself from beginning with a frown, a sigh, or a crossing of the arms. Though the concepts of human responsibility and Divine predestination may pose difficulties when it comes to our attempts to “reconcile” them, they are never addressed with consternation or puzzlement in Scripture. In fact, they are spoken of as plainly co-existing in blessed harmony. Therefore, as we speak about them, perhaps we should re-imagine them as something in which to be delighted as fully enmeshed – not separate and distinct and contradictory.

Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

Psalm 16:11

The Personality of God

December 9, 2015 at 1:39 pm | Posted in Exodus | 6 Comments
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Shortly after the exodus from Egypt the Israelites became panicky and dissatisfied, and reminded Moses that they had previously told him to leave them alone so they could go back and side with their slavemasters against the God Who wanted to set them free.

Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.

Exodus 14:12

In Chapter 32, as Moses comes down from Mt. Sinai, and God sees the people’s shameful idolatry around the golden calf, God tells Moses to leave HIM alone so that He can deal with them according to their sin.

Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.

Exodus 32:10

This is pointed mockery by God, as He suggests allowing the people to do what their actions indicate that they really want: to deal with Him without an intercessor (in their case Moses, but also foreshadowing Christ’s role as Intercessor). However, God’s suggestion is also a thinly veiled invitation to Moses to decline to “leave God alone.” It is obvious that God is giving Moses the opportunity to stay and intercede on behalf of the people – which he does.

Moses’s beseeching and pleading by appealing to God’s past deeds, glory, promises, and Word were successful.

And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.

Exodus 32:14

Moses “changed God’s mind” in a sense, although God’s perfect will was still being sovereignly worked out in this apparent reversal. The Bible describes this scenario a number of times when various servants of His intercede in prayer in response to His stated intention to bring wrath and judgment. However, none of these scenarios ever describe what is known as “Open Theism.” Open Theism is a technical heresy intended to: (1) make God seem actively involved in human affairs, as opposed to fatalistically predetermining all events, and then passively watching them happen; and (2) justify God’s alleged failure to overrule evil in the world.

God does not need this help. He is immanent as well as transcendent, and the existence of evil in the world is not a “failure” on the part of God, although He does choose to allow it. Augustine argued that evil is not a “thing,” but simply the absence – in varying degrees – of good. An analogy is the sense in which darkness is not a “thing” in opposition to light, but rather the absence of light. In other words, Augustine posited that God is good and that evil is a privation of good.

That’s certainly one way to think of it, but another way to think of it is that God is a person, and not a force. This reminds us that, even if we must attribute responsibility to Him when evil happens, He still can draw a straight line with a crooked stick. He doesn’t just know the future – He also has already made choices about the future and is already there “eternally” in the “future.” In other words, there’s no real “future” to Him. Omniscience requires no surprises – no “new” or “acquired” information or knowledge – because “omni” means “all,” “everything,” not a “figuring out,” or deciding upon, possible alternatives.

The underlying motivation for Open Theism is a desire to say that we have pure free will – that we are not being “controlled” by God. What this ignores is that everyone is being controlled – under either system. You are either controlled by yourself or by one greater. If the “one greater” is God – the loving, gracious, merciful, true, and right God, Who is a real “person” – then why would we even want to suggest that we should be “free” from Him and beholden to our own choices?

God’s Will and Our Will

September 18, 2015 at 9:26 am | Posted in Where There's a Way There's a Will | 8 Comments
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Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;

Romans 2:17-18 (emphasis added)

One of the distinguishing features about sometimes categorizing God’s will as preceptive, rather than decretive or secretive, is that God’s preceptive will is clearly revealed.

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

Romans 7:18

There is nothing good in our flesh. Have you come to grips with this in your life? Have you preached this to yourself and to the children entrusted by God into your care? God’s will can sometimes be described as dispositive, as can ours, but, in a stark contrast to His, our disposition, apart from His Spirit controlling us, is toward evil.

For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

Romans 7:19-25

Our wills are always subject to God’s decretive will, but they are often in abject rebellion against His preceptive will. Our wills are subject to our desires, but there is hope in Christ, for He can change our desires and thereby make our wills subject to God’s will.

One important thing to remember about God’s hidden will is that it is intentionally hidden. God has His reasons for not revealing His secret will to us, and those reasons are good. Historically, though, this has not sat well with everyone who claims to be a Christian. There were those in the early Church – including ascetics, gnostics, and legalists – who wanted to add their beliefs to Scripture’s teaching about God’s preceptive will, and to insist that their additions were binding, when in fact God had not revealed them to be so.

Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.

Colossians 2:23

The “things” referred to were possibly things like refusing to eat and wearing itchy clothes – things that appeared to mortify the flesh in an attempt to exercise “self”-control over the will. These denials of self and comfort were supposed to “prove” how spiritual the practitioners were by demonstrating their own “will power,” but they were basically worshiping their own will by pretending it was God’s will.

The truth is that there are certain areas where Scripture grants liberty and the application of personal conscience – for example, exact clothing choices, which holy days to observe, and what to eat or drink. In these areas, we should acknowledge that, where God has chosen to close His holy mouth, we ought not to be loud with ours.

God’s Preceptive Will

June 3, 2015 at 12:53 pm | Posted in Where There's a Way There's a Will | 2 Comments
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God’s preceptive will refers to precepts and specific orders that are spelled out in the Bible – and to principles pertaining to the application of God’s will in circumstances that are not spelled out word for word in the Bible. We encounter God’s preceptive will when we read what He has commanded people to do in order to be obedient to Him, and what He will hold them accountable for failing to do. The parade example is the Decalogue.

God’s preceptive will is our way of thinking about God’s commandments of righteousness and His commandments against unrighteousness. Unlike His decretive will, the preceptive will can be resisted. God allows unrighteous choices and actions to come from man’s will, but is not morally culpable for allowing them. This bothers people. We like to imagine a God who wished to prevent people from committing evil acts, and then we apply our understanding of His power to do just that (which He often does), and then we are upset because He doesn’t do it all the time. Our challenge instead is to be grateful He has the power to overrule the consequences of our own evil actions, and, again, He does in fact choose to overrule vast numbers of evil intentions on the part of those who would like to carry them out. Then we recognize that He is sovereign and powerful enough to control the whole thing to show off the greatest good. It is a challenge to our faith, but that is definitely the God you want when you are thinking correctly, and, regardless, it is the true God Who exists, and it is better for us to know the reality. God wishes to use evil – for reasons we admittedly don’t understand – but at the same time He is in absolute control and is incapable of making mistakes.

The Other Ten Commandments

November 12, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Posted in Selected Psalms | 4 Comments
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Psalm 105 was probably written after the remnant of the Jewish people returned from Babylonian exile. They needed an encouraging reminder of what God had done for the Jewish people in the past. Many people are familiar with “the” 10 Commandments – from Exodus 20 – although most Christians aren’t as familiar with them as we should be. Here in the first five verses of Psalm 105, though, are what I like to think of as “the other 10 commandments.”

O give thanks unto the LORD (1); call upon his name (2): make known his deeds among the people (3). Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him (4): talk ye of all his wondrous works (5). Glory ye in his holy name (6): let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD (7). Seek the LORD, and his strength (8): seek his face evermore (9). Remember his marvellous works that he hath done; his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth (10);

Psalm 105:1-5 (parenthetical numbers added)

1. Give thanks to the Lord.
2. Call upon His name.
3. Make His deeds known among the people.
4. Sing unto Him.
5. Talk of all His wondrous works.
6. Glory in His holy name.
7. Let your heart rejoice as you seek Him.
8. Seek the Lord and His strength.
9. Seek His face evermore.
10. Remember the marvelous works that He has done, and His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth.

How many of these commandments are you keeping?

O ye seed of Abraham his servant, ye children of Jacob his chosen.

Psalm 105:6

In verse 6 God begins to go into the history of His people. We are reminded that Abraham did not choose God – rather that God chose Abraham. “Covenant” is the name of the agreement which God enters into with people whom He chooses.

Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance:

Psalm 105:11

People love to boast about their free will, but God’s will overrides our will.

He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant:

Psalm 105:17

Israel also came into Egypt; and Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham. And he increased his people greatly; and made them stronger than their enemies.

Psalm 105:23-24

God wanted Joseph in Egypt to prepare a place for God’s people in the time of famine. Ultimately, Joseph accomplished God’s mission, but what happened in between? Joseph suffered. In God’s economy suffering almost always precedes glory.

-God parted the Red Sea – which was glorious. But what came before that? Suffering in Egypt.
-God led His people into the Promised Land – which was glorious. But what came before that? Suffering in the wilderness.
-David was anointed King when he was a boy – which was glorious. But what did he go through before he actually assumed the throne? Suffering.

If you are suffering right now, take heart. God may be preparing you for glory.

But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.

I Peter 5:10

Suffering is the preparation for glory, but suffering is also the climate of fruitfulness. The pains you are experiencing in your life today might be labor pains. No reasonable mother says, “Oh no! I did all that suffering for nine months, and all that suffering for nine hours – and all I got was a baby!” The typical response of a brand new mother – even a worn-out, sweat-drenched, tear-soaked, hoarse-from-screaming mother – is overwhelming joy the instant she sees the fruit of all that labor: her newborn baby.

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Or maybe your suffering is not as intense. Maybe you feel alone or trapped or depressed. Take heart, God may have you buried in the dark like a seed. A seed dies a type of death and experiences a type of destruction before it springs up into life and light and fruitfulness.

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When they were but a few men in number; yea, very few, and strangers in it.

Psalm 105:12

God took Jacob and his family of only about 70, and in Egypt they suffered – but they became a great nation.

He brought them forth also with silver and gold: and there was not one feeble person among their tribes.

Psalm 105:37

They worked as slaves without pay, but God made sure they ultimately received their wages. If you feel like you are slaving away in life without pay, take heart! If you belong to God, you may not get paid for your labor now, but God will reward you later!

Objections To the Doctrine of Everlasting Security Answered (Objection 4)

February 9, 2011 at 9:34 am | Posted in Eternity, Luke, Matthew, parables | 7 Comments
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Objection: I believe that I can lose my salvation because Luke 8:13 says, “They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.” To me this is going back to free will. We have the free will to walk away.

Answer to Objection: Luke 8:13 is not teaching that you can lose your salvation. You need to read the whole parable that Jesus is teaching. Some people hear the Word of God, but it lands on their stony heart. It is like seed on a rock. It can not send down roots. There may be a thin layer of soil on the rock, so that it looks for a little while like something is growing from the seed. But sunlight shines down on it (the heat of temptation), and it shrivels and dies and falls away. If it had roots, the heat would have made it grow, not die. These are people who look like they got saved until temptation came, and it was revealed that they never got saved to begin with. They did not “lose their salvation.”

Objection: But what about Deuteronomy 30:17-20: “But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

Answer to Objection: Deuteronomy 30:17-20 does not teach that you can lose your salvation. When God renewed His covenant with the people of Israel as they prepared to cross over into the promised land of Canaan, He told them that if they disobeyed, they would die. If they obeyed, they would live long and prosper. They could be blessed for obedience or cursed for disobedience. This is speaking about prolonging their days upon the land, and the “length of their days on the earth,” not eternal salvation. Eternal salvation is by grace through faith, not through keeping the Old Testament Covenant.

Objection: What about Matthew 5:13?

Answer to Objection: Matthew 5:13 is not teaching that you can lose your salvation. “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” Salt in Bible times could go bad or spoil, and then it would be useless for bringing out the flavor in food, and for preserving food. Jesus is saying that you are no good as a disciple if you won’t bring the truth of God’s Word to the people with whom you come into contact. We should cast people out of the church fellowship and positions of ministry if they are not acting as salt and light.

I have seen God convince some people of the truth of eternal security. Some people I have seen simply do not want to believe it. It is important that we do not try to find Bible verses that will fit into what we want to believe. There are whole ministries and denominations out there built around teaching that Christians can lose “their” salvation. These preachers think that people will just sin as much as they want to after they’re saved, and that we can’t trust God to get saved people to do what He wants us to do. But we must let the Bible tell us what is true even if we don’t happen to like it. I hope you will prayerfully consider that Jesus can not lie. If He has promised to take all those who have once been saved, and to keep them saved forever, what makes you think this is the one exception where He would lie? If you think you are keeping yourself saved, then you are giving yourself the glory, and you may be trusting in you, instead of trusting in Christ. But if God is keeping you saved, then He gets the glory, and you must put all your trust in Christ and not in yourself.

Objections To the Doctrine of Everlasting Security Answered (Objection 2)

November 19, 2010 at 10:52 am | Posted in Eternity, Ezekiel, John | 5 Comments
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Objection: Ezekiel 3:20 teaches that you can lose your salvation because you have free will.

Answer to Objection: Ezekiel 3:20 is not teaching that a saved person can lose his salvation. “Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.”

Please read the whole chapter – Ezekiel 3 – in context. It is teaching that people under a covenant with God must continue obeying, or else God will take their earthly life – especially after He has sent a “watchman” (a preacher) to warn them. It is also teaching that preachers must preach to disobedient people as though they were lost, even if these lost people claim to be righteous.

Objection: What about free will?

Answer to Objection: The question of “free will” was also brought up in my post on Objection 1. However, you need to remember that our wills are in bondage to our natures. And “free will” is not a reason for believing you can lose “your” salvation, unless you believe you were saved by your own free will. Let me show you that you were not saved by your own free will:

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

John 1:12-13, emphasis added

If you are truly saved, you were saved by God, not by your own will. Then, at the moment of salvation, you received a new nature, and a new will connected to that nature. Your old will could not love God or obey God. Only your new will can. That’s why Jesus says that Christians are people who have been “born again.” Babies are not born by their own will. And they can not “walk away” from having been born. They may get sick. They may die. They may fail to grow. They may deny that they were ever born to begin with. But they can never, ever be unborn.


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